Page 3

1
Background

Questions about the ''best" way to enhance performance are asked by practitioners in a variety of fields, often in the context of private or public training programs, and large markets exist for techniques to enhance performance.  In its first report, the Committee on Techniques for the Enhancement of Human Performance noted that such techniques "have been actively promoted by entrepreneurs who sense a profitable market in self-improvement" (Druckman and Swets, 1988:5); but the committee found that strong claims were seldom accompanied by solid evidence of effectiveness. In its second book, the committee turned from an evaluation of specific techniques to a consideration of more basic issues of performance (Druckman and Bjork, 1991). Many of these issues were addressed in the context of how to train people to acquire and maintain job-related skills, especially the skills needed to accomplish organizational missions.

In continuing its work, the committee in this book examines recent research in learning, memory and cognition, emotions, and social and team processes and their implications for application. The committee pays less attention to the applied research on training and learning in work organizations, including work done in industrial settings on technology issues (e.g., Goldstein, 1993). Parts II and III of this volume examine current issues of learning and performance for individuals and teams. Part IV evaluates techniques for enhancing performance that are accompanied by strong claims of effectiveness. Finally, in Part V, the committee calls attention to some new directions that may have promise for future research and application. Our overall mission is to consider human technologies that are not dependent on major expenditures or high-technology equipment. Similarly, our



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement



Below are the first 10 and last 10 pages of uncorrected machine-read text (when available) of this chapter, followed by the top 30 algorithmically extracted key phrases from the chapter as a whole.
Intended to provide our own search engines and external engines with highly rich, chapter-representative searchable text on the opening pages of each chapter. Because it is UNCORRECTED material, please consider the following text as a useful but insufficient proxy for the authoritative book pages.

Do not use for reproduction, copying, pasting, or reading; exclusively for search engines.

OCR for page 3
Page 3 1 Background Questions about the ''best" way to enhance performance are asked by practitioners in a variety of fields, often in the context of private or public training programs, and large markets exist for techniques to enhance performance.  In its first report, the Committee on Techniques for the Enhancement of Human Performance noted that such techniques "have been actively promoted by entrepreneurs who sense a profitable market in self-improvement" (Druckman and Swets, 1988:5); but the committee found that strong claims were seldom accompanied by solid evidence of effectiveness. In its second book, the committee turned from an evaluation of specific techniques to a consideration of more basic issues of performance (Druckman and Bjork, 1991). Many of these issues were addressed in the context of how to train people to acquire and maintain job-related skills, especially the skills needed to accomplish organizational missions. In continuing its work, the committee in this book examines recent research in learning, memory and cognition, emotions, and social and team processes and their implications for application. The committee pays less attention to the applied research on training and learning in work organizations, including work done in industrial settings on technology issues (e.g., Goldstein, 1993). Parts II and III of this volume examine current issues of learning and performance for individuals and teams. Part IV evaluates techniques for enhancing performance that are accompanied by strong claims of effectiveness. Finally, in Part V, the committee calls attention to some new directions that may have promise for future research and application. Our overall mission is to consider human technologies that are not dependent on major expenditures or high-technology equipment. Similarly, our

OCR for page 3
Page 4 emphasis on performance enhancement deals primarily with differences between treatments or techniques that apply widely to broadly defined populations, such as an evaluation of effects due to cooperative learning or teambuilding versus appropriate control conditions; differences among the individuals involved in these treatments or techniques are only occasionally discussed. These emphases may be viewed as complementing the work of other National Research Council committees whose missions are to study high-technology innovations or individual differences. Our findings and conclusions are regarded as being broadly applicable to a wide range of settings and populations, in both private and public organizations. This book, like the previous volumes produced by the committee, brings basic research to bear on a number of applied issues related to performance. The applied issues drove the selection of topics, but they did not determine the way in which the topics were treated. Each chapter develops the implications for application from the completed research. In some cases, the research provides a basis for making decisions about implementing programs. In some other cases, the research discourages proceeding with certain techniques. And for other topics there is a glimpse of promising avenues for further exploration. Enhancing our perspective on training, the book is framed by two chapters that address very broad issues. The first chapter addresses issues related to situated learning, providing evidence that contributes to the debate over the extent to which training programs ought to be situated in real-world tasks. The final chapter considers the possible effects of organizational factors on decisions to develop training programs and how they are implemented. CONTINUITIES IN THE STUDY OF ENHANCING PERFORMANCE In this third phase of the committee's work, we reaffirm our mandate to address broad theoretical principles in an applied context. We attempt to bring the latest scientific evidence to bear on issues of training and performance, recognizing that performance encompasses emotional, cognitive, motor, and social skills. And we continue to subscribe to the philosophy of evaluation enunciated in the committee's first book, Enhancing Human Performance (Druckman and Swets, 1988): for basic research, we ask whether inferences made about causation are warranted; for applied research, we ask whether a program has been evaluated in a field setting and, if so, whether it is cost-effective. The committee's work has evolved from evaluating techniques about which there are optimistic claims for improvement to focusing on the implications of fundamental psychological or social-psychological processes underlying performance. Thus, during its first phase, the committee evaluated such techniques as suggestive accelerative learning and teaching techniques,

OCR for page 3
Page 5 biofeedback, neurolinguistic programming, Hemi-Sync, and mental practice. Other techniques were evaluated during the committee's second phase, including subliminal self-help tapes, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), and meditation, but the committee's main focus shifted to implications of research—on long-term retention of skills, modeling expertise, career development, the psychological processes associated with deception, and team performance. Those implications are reported in the committee's second volume, In the Mind's Eye (Druckman and Bjork, 1991). Continuing our emphasis on fundamental processes, this volume examines such topics as cooperative learning, team building, the relation between self-confidence and motivation to perform, the transmission of affect in social situations, and implications of thought suppression. But it also retains its interest in techniques accompanied by strong claims: such "techniques" as hypnosis and restricted environmental stimulation are evaluated, and we revisit issues concerning meditation and sleep learning, topics taken up in earlier phases of the committee's work. The path taken by the committee—from techniques to processes—has moved the study from the realm of techniques developed by entrepreneurs working outside of academic disciplinary traditions to the realm of research conducted within disciplinary contexts. The change from techniques to processes may be advantageous. In our first report, we argued that techniques should be developed in concert with knowledge generated from research. One problem with many of the techniques examined was that they were largely responses to consumer needs—proposed quick fixes for widely recognized problems. If they had been developed in conjunction with knowledge gained from research and evaluated in a systematic manner, the techniques would have benefited from the latest advances in theory and methodology. Such benefits could well have rendered them more effective for improving performance. The issues and processes examined in this book should contribute to the development of better approaches to enhancing performance in a variety of settings. Although several new topics are covered in this book, our work has been guided by the familiar themes of learning and mental states. In Parts II and III, we continue to examine issues concerned with transfer of skills from training to work settings: Part II covers individual learning and remembering; Part III considers teams. The issues are discussed in relation to the debate over the extent to which learners should be trained in contexts that closely resemble the work (or other transfer) setting. We also continue our interest in team performance, paying particular attention to issues of team training and team building. This work extends our earlier work on the performance effects of group cohesion (in the first phase) and the effects of performing tasks in teams (in the second phase). Although the social dimensions of learning is recognized in our earlier work, we focus explicitly in this book on cooperative learning, primarily in relation to adult learning.

OCR for page 3
Page 6 Added to these topics is the recent work on illusions of comprehension; the committee considers implications of this phenomenon for understanding, noting that self-reports of understanding may not coincide with what has actually been learned. This work relates to our earlier focus on the value of self-report instruments. In Part IV, on mental states, the committee updates its previous evaluations of sleep learning (in phase one) and meditation (in phase two). The new research we examine on sleep learning was in fact stimulated by our earlier report. In this part we also examine newly available meta-analyses of the effects of transcendental meditation on performance. Our evaluation of that work has implications for the issue of whether meditation produces effects that differ from those induced by other forms of relaxation. In this part we also evaluate the claims made for restricted environmental stimulation as a technique to enhance performance. Another special state of consciousness covered in this part is hypnosis: our review examines when the technique is effective and when it is not. Finally, drawing once again on research from the field of sports psychology, the committee reviews what is known about the role of self-confidence in performance. Two other new topics are addressed in Part V. Our treatment of socially induced affect, which refers to an emotional experience in one person induced by someone else's visible emotions, draws on themes of social influence and nonverbal communication that were explored in our earlier work. Documented by extensive laboratory research, socially induced affect has several practical implications for performance: these implications are illustrated in the chapter; they have not yet been demonstrated in research. In this part we also consider thought suppression, a mental control strategy that has generally been considered in the context of psychological health but that also has implications for performance. The connection between consciousness and performance is a fertile area for investigation. Some ideas for guiding the research are put forth in this chapter. Lastly, the epilogue addresses a special issue of application. It is often the case that sound advice based on research findings has little impact in an organization. We consider the effects of institutional attitudes and assumptions about the value of training, the issue of selection versus training, and the characteristics of training. The insights in this epilogue are based on the committee's collective experience, from both its previous research and site visits to training facilities, gained during the three phases of work completed to date. CONCEPTS AND ISSUES Several concepts cut across all the parts and chapters in this book. Transfer of training issues are considered both with respect to the training

OCR for page 3
Page 7 of individuals and teams; issues of context are central in our treatments of learning, team training and building, and organizational cultures, and they also affect thought suppression; member interdependence and cohesion play an important role in cooperative learning, team training and building, and socially induced affect; attributional processes contribute to illusions of comprehension and to self-confidence; and, the effects on memory as a mediating process in performance is considered in the chapters on illusions of comprehension, hypnosis and other states of consciousness, and thought suppression. These concepts are at the juncture between individual and social psychology. They will be the foci for research into the next century and, as such, do not represent accumulated knowledge so much as the new ideas that form the basis for future investigations. This volume reflects the tension between individual and social learning: To what extent should training be situated or "contextualized"? To what extent should learning be cooperative rather than individual? It also reflects tensions between cognitive and affective processes: Do emotional identifications with units hinder or facilitate the process of learning to perform in teams?, and, between scientific research and the organizations that will use the research in the design of training programs: What are the organizational factors that interfere with implementing new training programs? These tensions will remain as issues to be addressed in the years to come; they are the basis for a research agenda put forth by the committee. Social scientists have not been able to account for performance in terms either of individual or social processes alone. Processes at both levels of analysis are needed for a more complete explanation. Indeed, the committee grapples with the relative emphases to be placed on individual or social learning and performance, focusing our "lens" somewhere between the extreme positions that all learning is, ultimately, an isolated individual process and that all learning is a social process. The interplay between individual and social processes is more explicitly recognized in this book than in our previous work. We recognize some difficulties in operationalizing concepts intended to capture social processes: one example is the idea of "shared mental models"; another is the notion of "meta-cognitions." These are processes that cannot be accounted for solely in terms of individuals. Implications for performance are discussed in some detail in Chapter 6. The issue also has implications regarding how to train soldiers or civilians for work that usually takes place in groups: If social processes are critical for success, as many analysts argue, it would seem evident that training should take place in teams where members interact and coordinate their efforts over relatively long periods of time. Another theme for our work is the study of consciousness, reflected in the chapters on thought suppression, hypnosis, and special states of consciousness. The phenomenon of consciousness remains a mystery. It is a

OCR for page 3
Page 8 mystery because we have not been able to explain it without invoking the term "consciousness": According to Dennett (1991:454), "Only a theory that explained conscious events in terms of unconscious events could explain consciousness at all." For many philosophers, the mystery remains because mental events cannot be accounted for solely in terms of physical brain processes. According to the Cartesian dualist view, human brains are unable to accomplish understanding all by themselves; immaterial processes must be invoked to provide a full explanation. For many scientists, the materialist position that human brains are responsible on their own is acceptable; advances in neuroscience and related disciplines are moving some scientists closer to the realization that "understanding is somehow achieved by a process composed of interactions between a host of subsystems none of which understand a thing by themselves" (Dennett, 1991:438-439). Whether a fully satisfactory explanation—based on scientific research or on metaphorical thinking—can ever be achieved is doubtful. Nor does this book contribute in any direct way to this debate. We do, however, develop implications from the results of experiments on the relation between induced mental states and performance. Those mental states are regarded to reside at a juncture between conscious and subconscious activity. Suppression is a technique for taking unwanted thoughts out of awareness. Avoiding certain conscious thoughts is also accomplished by meditation and restricted stimulation: the altered state may relieve one of the tensions associated with certain mental and physical activities. And, to an extent, sleep serves the same function, although the symbolism of dreams often introduces the same thoughts in different forms. Approached from the other direction, unconscious thoughts may be brought to the surface by hypnosis, an idea central to some schools of psychotherapy. With all these techniques, however, the implications for performance of either confronting or avoiding certain thoughts are unclear. Although much is yet to be learned, we have identified some critical issues that are likely only to be increasingly important and needing the research suggested. Several of the topics have direct implications for issues raised in the military. Most relevant, perhaps, are the issues surrounding the use of simulated environments for combat training. The hotly debated issue of situated learning, discussed mostly with regard to civilian education, is equally relevant to the acquisition of skills needed for military performance. Included among those skills is performing as members of teams. A focus on a team or unit raises questions about how to promote positive interdependence in task performance. Team learning may be fundamentally different than individual learning, forcing new frameworks for research and practice. Other issues are germane to both individual and unit training. In addition to acquiring and maintaining the needed skills, soldiers must be

OCR for page 3
Page 9 "ready" to perform. Readiness includes a cluster of motivational processes, which we treat as mental states. With regard to individuals, we examine alternative programs for developing self-confidence, popular methods for inducing those special states of consciousness needed to deal with major challenges or to overcome obstacles to achieving goals, and call attention to some problems associated with a particular mental-control strategy. With regard to teams, we consider the possibility that leaders, by their own facial and bodily expressions, may induce positive emotions in members that contribute to improved team performance. Although we maintain our focus on performance, the committee "steps back" to examine cognitive, social, and emotional processes that precede and largely account for observed performances. In this book, we address issues that require an understanding of these fundamental processes. While the issues inform the analysis in each of the chapters, we also provide some exposition about the underlying processes involved. In some chapters, we are concerned primarily with the processes and mechanisms responsible for effects. Examples are the chapters on cooperative learning, and on socially induced affect, as well as the section on meditation. In other chapters, the analysis is driven largely by key issues: examples are how much learning should be in context, when to intervene in the team learning process, when best to train people in teams or alone, and how best to build the sort of selfconfidence needed for improving performance. This book, like the previous committee volumes, accomplishes several purposes. Our treatment of some topics—for example, situated learning, hypnosis, restricted environmental stimulation—serves either to confirm or not to confirm common beliefs and practices about techniques, interventions, or approaches to learning and training. The chapters on cooperative learning and team performance provide a structure to a disorganized field of research and theory. The reviews of research on socially induced affect and thought suppression document phenomena largely ignored in previous work. These chapters are presented as new directions for research in the decade ahead. The work on self-confidence draws out clearer conclusions from a body of research than has been previously done. All of the chapters attempt to refine or redefine questions of applications from the implications of the basic research. Finally, in the epilogue, we consider the larger institutional context in which most performance takes place.