Date of Award

Spring 2012

Access Type

Thesis - Open Access

Degree Name

Master of Science in Human Factors & Systems


Human Factors and Systems

Committee Chair

Dr. Kelly J. Neville

First Committee Member

Dr. Elizabeth L. Blickensderfer

Second Committee Member

Colonel Stephen P. Luxion


Research on expert chess players, radiologists and landmine detection personnel suggests a use of cognitive frameworks, alternatively referred to as schemas, templates, scripts, frames and models, to effectively perceive, interpret, understand, recall, and anticipate information. These experts may use cognitive frameworks to capture past experience in ways that support rapid pattern recognition, adaptive responses and proactivity. The proposed research approach assumes that experienced pilots will similarly rely on cognitive frameworks to handle information and make sense of complex, fast-moving situations experienced in their information-dense environments. Predictions from Klein et al.'s (2006) Data/Frame Model of Sensemaking were used to evaluate event-based interview data collected from uninhabited aerial system (UAS) pilots and high performance military aircraft pilots (F-16 and UH-60 Black Hawk) in order to assess the methods with which these experts handle large amounts of critical information in their operations. This effort may benefit the sensemaking model, a model based largely on domains in which situations unfold over time and decision-making can be adapted, such as in information operations, nursing and fire fighting, by comparing its predictions with data collected from UAS pilots. The UAS operations domain, in particular, has characteristics that differ from those of domains on which the model is based because UAS pilot sensemaking must support decisions and continuous adjustments of an aircraft operating in a dynamic, potentially complex, and rapidly shifting environment from which the pilot is physically removed. The military aviation domain may be similar to studied domains that some decisions need to be made rapidly, and situations can change rapidly; nevertheless, as a new domain to the model, offers the potential to reveal new insights. Based on this research, recommendations are offered for aviation training and other information-rich domains, and evidence is provided that addresses the question, "How much information can a person handle?"