Date of Award


Access Type

Thesis - Open Access

Degree Name

Master of Science in Human Factors & Systems


Human Factors and Systems

Committee Chair

Kelly J. Neville, Ph.D.

First Committee Member

John Wise, Ph.D.

Second Committee Member

Randall Triplett M.S.

Third Committee Member

Tina Frederick-Recascion, Ph.D.


The purpose of this study was to explore long-term working memory in experts in an information-rich, dynamic domain. Of particular interest were strategies experts use to enhance long-term working memory capacity when working with verbal versus aural information. Three air traffic control instructors participated in four complex air traffic control scenarios, two radar scenarios in which information was presented visually and two non-radar scenarios in which information presentation was purely aural. Participants recalled traffic situation information at two points during and at the end of each scenario. Recall data for each scenario type were assessed in terms of evidence about information chunking and organizational strategies, the role of long-term working memory in extending working memory capacity, and the format of traffic situation information held in long-term working memory. Patterns of recall were consistent with template-based explanations of information organization and the use of information chunking within templates. Data were consistent with Ericsson and Kintsch's (1995) model of long-term working memory in that working memory capacity seemed to be extended by the storing of traffic situation information in long-term working memory templates from which it seemed to be selectively and readily accessed and brought into working memory. Traffic situation information tended to be recalled in different orders for radar compared with non-radar scenarios, although the general organizational structure of the information seemed similar. Information, regardless of whether presented visually or aurally, tended to be recalled based on aircraft position, which seemed to prime other aircraft attributes which, in turn, seemed to prime yet other aircraft attributes. The results of this research have the potential to contribute to the long-term working memory, working memory, and expertise literatures. For example, they suggest hypotheses about expert and novice long-term working memory capacity that could be pursued in future research. To this end, the present study will be replicated using novice air traffic controllers. The comparison of novice and expert recall patterns has the potential to shed light on differences in information storage and recall strategies and could have implications for training air traffic controllers. The study additionally could hold implications for the design of NextGen air traffic control products and systems in other complex work domains. These results could shed light on display design for those systems by suggesting which information can or should be displayed within an aircraft's data tag and which can or should be presented aurally.