Natick’s cognitive science research helps steer Soldiers in the right direction

Photo Credit: David Kamm Dr. Tad Brunye guides a Soldier participating in a navigation virtual reality exercise at the Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center. Brunye, who is on the Natick Cognitive Science Team, is investigating various influences on choices people make when choosing a route.

Photo Credit: David Kamm
Dr. Tad Brunye guides a Soldier participating in a navigation virtual reality exercise at the Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center. Brunye, who is on the Natick Cognitive Science Team, is investigating various influences on choices people make when choosing a route.

NATICK, Mass. (Oct. 2, 2014) — When the going gets tough, Dr. Tad Brunyé wants to help. A member of the Cognitive Science Team at the Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center, Brunyé is investigating spatial and non-spatial influences on Soldier navigation choices.

Spatial influences pertain to things in an actual space, such as topography, local and distant landmarks, or the position of the sun. Non-spatial influences are a little harder to define and can include a Soldier’s emotional state, level of stress, mission and task demands, skills, abilities, traits, and his or her past experience in a geographical area, all of which can affect navigational choices.

“We are still trying to identify and characterize the full range of spatial and non-spatial influences and how they interact with emerging representations of experienced environments,” Brunyé said. “We all have our current mental states. So, you may see the same landmarks as I do, you may see the same topography that I do, but I might be in a very different state that leads me to interpret and use that same information in very different ways.

“How confident do I feel in my environment? Is there a history of enemy activity? Are there certain areas I want to avoid? Are there certain safe spots that I want to keep in mind? There is always interplay between what you sense in the environment, what you perceive, what you know, what you predict will occur, and ultimately how you act.”

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