CREST Guide: How training and professional experience affect the ability to spot targets

How training and professional experience affects the ability to spot targets

What can influence our ability to spot targets? Based on research by CREST researchers Nick Donnelly, Anne Hillstrom and Natalie Mestry, this guide presents an overview of some of the difficulties in training to spot targets.

The goal of workforce training is to enable people to quickly reach a level of competency that allows them to perform their work effectively. When the work task is search, the good news is that for a newcomer search and image comparison generally improves with practice. A well-designed training programme can accelerate practice effects. But what does it mean for a training programme to be well-designed?

A well-designed training programme can accelerate practice effects. But what does it mean for a training programme to be well-designed?

Some of the key points presented in the guide are:

  • Practice should not oversimplify the task. If a task is complex, training should not present only the easiest examples. Rather, difficult and easy examples should be presented from the start. The better the range of practice examples, the easier it is for people to apply what they learn to new examples.
  • Practice should be adaptive. While not over-simplifying, it makes the task achievable from the start, according to the skill the trainee shows. As skill improves, difficulty increases.
  • Practice should give feedback. If possible, feedback should be specific to individual decisions rather than an overall performance evaluation. It should also point the way to what to do differently.
  • If a task involves multiple parts, practice all parts of the task. The coordination of different parts of a task is a skill in itself that often needs practice, and so if different parts are learned separately, the coordination skill is not learned.
You can read more on this topic by downloading the guide here 16-026-01-1.pdf. The guide will take two minutes to read. This is one of a series of guides on detecting rare, hidden, or non-salient targets. You can read the other guides here.

As part of CREST’s commitment to open access research this guide is available under a Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0 licence. For more details on how you can use our content see here.