A number of homeland security occupations require vigilance to potentially subtle events in the environment, with high stakes for missing infrequent but consequential items. Sustained vigilance can be required for long periods of time or when sleep-deprived or physically inactive, compounding the difficulty of this task. Research on sustained vigilance has largely focused on tasks such as driving, air traffic control, medical screening, and military specialties, but the findings closely apply also to other homeland security-related occupations. A research area that has received relatively little attention, but is of critical importance to homeland security, involves the role of individual differences in vigilance. Prior research suggests that certain individuals are better than others at searching for rarely present targets over long time periods, yet what is driving this effect remains unclear. Further, it is not known whether or not sustained vigilance can be improved through training. This research team is studying two research questions: Are there individual differences in the inherent ability to sustain vigilance? and What are the most effective approaches for training and improving sustained vigilance for rare items or events?. The intent is to employ tasks (primarily visual identification and gross motor tests) that readily translate to the relevant homeland security occupations requiring sustained vigilance. © 2010 IEEE.
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