This report describes the development and preliminary application of an experimental test bed for modeling human behavior in the context of a computer generated environment to analyze the effects of variations in communication modalities, incentives and stressful conditions. In addition to detailing the methodological development of a simulated task environment that provides for electronic monitoring and recording of individual and group behavior, the initial substantive findings from an experimental analysis of distributed interactive communication in simulated space dwelling groups are described. Crews of three members each (male and female) participated in simulated "planetary missions" based upon a synthetic scenario task that required identification, collection, and analysis of geologic specimens with a range of grade values. The results of these preliminary studies showed clearly that cooperative and productive interactions were maintained between individually isolated and distributed individuals communicating and problem-solving effectively in a computer-generated "planetary" environment over extended time intervals without benefit of one another's physical presence. Studies on communication channel constraints confirmed the functional interchangeability between available modalities with the highest degree of interchangeability occurring between Audio and Text modes of communication. The effects of task-related incentives were determined by the conditions under which they were available with Positive Incentives effectively attenuating decrements in performance under stressful time pressure. © 2003 Elsevier Ltd. All rights rserved.
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