How Situational Awareness Affects Decision Making

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Introduction

Situational awareness is an abstraction. It is present in people’s minds. It is the description of phenomena observed by humans, usually in a rich and dynamic work performance environment. For instance, a pilot can apply situational awareness by perceiving the self and the airplane continuously, even as other events like flight threats continue taking place. Here, situational analysis is a mixture of the ability to forecast and the act of carrying out the tasks as per the perceptions. First, there is the human factor and then there are the important cues being responded to. In addition, there are behavioral cues and mental processing by the concerned person. The situational awareness goal is to provide the basis for decisions that follow. It is not an objective to cause anything.1

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Main Text

A more general explanation of situational analysis that should serve as the basis for understanding it in specific circumstances is that it is the ability to remain aware of everything. This includes all the things happening at the same time. It also entails applying awareness to the present actions. Again, using the pilot’s example, situational awareness is the continuous perception of self and aircraft; in this case, the pilot would be actively keeping track of prioritized significant events occurring.

Given the variation of priority details in any situation, the resultant levels of awareness can also vary. With this view in mind, the increase in situational analysis equals the increase in cognition of occurring events such that one can predict and anticipate future occurrences. On the other hand, reduced awareness of the situation corresponds to a loss of ability to recognize internal and external occurring events.2

Making decisions using situational awareness (SA) calls for a different approach, unlike examining situations and coming up with several options. In the SA approach, an individual knows about the other acting elements in a scene and their possible maneuvers. At the same time, the individual is well aware of personal capabilities and those of equipment or technologies they are using. Crises need fast and effective responses, which require respondents to be are aware of the crisis. An actor in a crisis has to incorporate knowledge from a wide array of fields in a relatively short time. The following is a literature review of how situational awareness affects decision-making.

In research conducted by Loukkala and Virrantaus,3 findings showed that narratives help to boost situational awareness for actors in organizations. However, the time constraints associated with crises limit the efficacy of narratives because individuals do not have enough time to go through a narrative, comprehend it, and then make rational decisions based on the new information. The researchers established that narratives can be integrated using a semantic network. Such integration would enable an actor to reduce the demands for cognition and make it easy for an actor to make the right judgment call. For example, there are limited sources of information in organizations where workers are in the field.

The manifestation of a crisis forces a worker to only use the information and facilities available for decision making. As a result, decision-making in the field appears faster than decision-making in other situations. Loukkala and Virrantaus4 explain that this happens because of the automotive nature of the process. Workers receive incremental feedback based on their work and their reaction to their situations, such that they are dealing with one or only a few challenges at any time, but not the entire scope. For a worker, the decision-making process is effortless.5

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In a study done to determine the impact of situational awareness in the decision-making process of watch officers in a marine training facility, Chauvin, Clostermann, and Hoc6 showed that subjects focused on the integration of rules and anticipation of other vessels’ intentions. They put the perception of elements in the environment as secondary factors. Part of the reason for the ranking of the situational awareness needs would be to establish a basic threshold of decision making.

In the same research findings, there were four different profiles to explain individual decision-making for the crisis used in the research. The trainees differed in the distance they went before changing course, the direction of the change, the interpretation of the other vessel’s intentions, and reference to the rules. The key findings of the research showed that 55 percent of the trainees made decisions that went contrary to the rules, while 34 percent made unsafe decisions. The research shows that without the inclusion of situational awareness as part of training, organizations, or institutions may lose the opportunity to influence the decision-making process of individuals with their training curricula.7

The findings are consistent with the perspectives of Huder8 on decision-making during a disaster. The author notes that members of an organization rely on established rules and regulations to make decisions in a predictable environment with outlined bureaucratic channels. However, in a disaster, the same individuals are unable to make the right decisions because they are relying on rules and regulations that are not reflective of the dynamic, uncertain, and stress-filled nature of the disaster environment. While the individuals might revert to other methods of finding solutions, they will only do this after exhausting the options presented by the rules and regulations. In most cases, they are caught up with time.

The findings by Nicholson and O’Hare9 corroborate the findings of other researchers like Chauvin, Clostermann, and Hoc,10 as well as Loukkala and Virrantaus11 to conclude that altering the situational awareness of an individual affects the quality of the decisions made. Alternatively, enhancing an individual’s ability to make cognitive judgments also enhances abilities, increases the quality of decisions in cognitively demanding situations, and has to match the quality achieved in non-cognitive demanding situations.

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Recent experiences enhance decision-making abilities when responding to similar situations, albeit at a lessened degree compared to the effects of going through a high cognitive load practice before reverting to a low cognitive low situation. Implications of the findings of this and other related research are that cognitive load itself is not a predictor of performance, but it does help in predicting performance when analyzed in the context of past task-relevant experiences.12

Patient care is influenced by the perception of the nurse, as well as other environmental factors in the care environment. As Fore and Sculli13 report in their analysis of situational awareness, an actor is impaired when acting without adequate situational preparation and cognitive abilities to enhance situational awareness.

Conclusion

In conclusion, individuals need to gain abilities for dealing with ambiguities. Part of the skills needs related to situational awareness. While training individuals, organizations can focus on increasing cognitive loads in prototypical experiments so that the individuals make quality-relevant decisions in actual crises.

End Notes

  1. Richard Gasaway, Situational awareness for emergency response (Tulsa: PennWell Corporation, 2013), 45-60.
  2. Ibid, 66.
  3. Pekka Luokkala and Kirsi Virrantaus, ‘Developing Information Systems to Support Situational Awareness and Interaction in Time-Pressuring Crisis Situations’, Safety Science, 63 (2014), 191-203.
  4. Pekka Luokkala and Kirsi Virrantaus, ‘Developing Information Systems To Support Situational Awareness and Interaction in Time-Pressuring Crisis Situations’, Safety Science, 63 (2014), 191-203.
  5. Pekka Luokkala and Kirsi Virrantaus, ‘Developing Information Systems to Support Situational Awareness and Interaction in Time-Pressuring Crisis Situations’, Safety Science, 63 (2014), 191-203.
  6. Christine Chauvin, Jean-Pierre Clostermann and Jean-Michel Hoc, ‘Situational Awareness and the Decision-Making Process in A Dynamic Situation: Avoiding Collsion at Sea’, Journal of Cognitive Engineering and Decision Making, 5 (2011), 378-400.
  7. Christine Chauvin, J P Clostermann and Jean-Michel Hoc, ‘Situational Awareness and the Decision-Making Process in a Dynamic Situation: Avoiding Collsion at Sea’, Journal of Cognitive Engineering and Decision Making, 5 (2011), 378-400.
  8. Roger C Huder, Disaster operations and decision making (Hoboken, NJ: Wiley, 2012).
  9. Brad Nicholson and David O’Hare, ‘The Effects on Individual Difference, Prior Experience and Cognitive Load on the Transfer of Dynamic Decison-Making Performance’, Ergonomics, 57 (2014), 1353-65.
  10. Christine Chauvin, Jean-Pierre Clostermann and Jean-Michel Hoc, ‘Situational Awareness and the Decision-Making Process in a Dynamic Situation: Avoiding Collsion at Sea’, Journal of Cognitive Engineering and Decision Making, 5 (2011), 378-400.
  11. Pekka Luokkala and Kirsi Virrantaus, ‘Developing Information Systems to Support Situational Awareness and Interaction in Time-Pressuring Crisis Situations’, Safety Science, 63 (2014), 191-203.
  12. Brad Nicholson and David O’Hare, ‘The Effects on Individual Difference, Prior Experience and Cognitive Load on the Transfer of Dynamic Decison-Making Performance’, Ergonomics, 57 (2014), 1353-65.
  13. Amanda Fore and Gary L Sculli, ‘A Concept Analysis of Situational Awareness in Nursing’, Journal of Advanced Nursing, 69 (2013), 2613–2621.

Bibliography

Chauvin, Christine, Jean-Pierre Clostermann, and Jean-Michel Hoc. “Situational Awareness and the Decision-Making Process in a Dynamic Situation: Avoiding Collsion at Sea.” Journal of Cognitive Engineering and Decision Making 5 (2011): 378-400.

Fore, Amanda, and Gary L Sculli. “A Concept Analysis of Situational Awareness in Nursing.” Journal of Advanced Nursing 69, no. 12 (2013): 2613–2621.

Gasaway, Richard. Situational awareness for emergency response. Tulsa: PennWell Corporation, 2013.

Huder, Roger C. Disaster operations and decision making. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley, 2012.

Luokkala, Pekka, and Kirsi Virrantaus. “Developing Information Systems to Support Situational Awareness and Interaction in Time-Pressuring Crisis Situations.” Safety Science 63 (2014): 191-203.

Nicholson, Brad, and David O’Hare. “The Effects on Individual Difference, Prior Experience and Cognitive Load on the Transfer of Dynamic Decison-Making Performance.” Ergonomics 57, no. 9 (2014): 1353-1365.

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PsychologyWriting. (2022, March 24). How Situational Awareness Affects Decision Making. Retrieved from https://psychologywriting.com/how-situational-awareness-affects-decision-making/

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PsychologyWriting. (2022) 'How Situational Awareness Affects Decision Making'. 24 March.

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PsychologyWriting. 2022. "How Situational Awareness Affects Decision Making." March 24, 2022. https://psychologywriting.com/how-situational-awareness-affects-decision-making/.

1. PsychologyWriting. "How Situational Awareness Affects Decision Making." March 24, 2022. https://psychologywriting.com/how-situational-awareness-affects-decision-making/.


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PsychologyWriting. "How Situational Awareness Affects Decision Making." March 24, 2022. https://psychologywriting.com/how-situational-awareness-affects-decision-making/.