The Effects of Automation on Team Performance and Team Coordination

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Title: The Effects of Automation on Team Performance and Team Coordination
Author: Wright, Melanie Clay
Advisors: Michael G. Kay, Committee Member
David B. Kaber, Committee Chair
Gary Mirka, Committee Member
Sharolyn Converse Lane, Committee Member
Abstract: The advancement of technology has led to an increased use of automation in a number of work domains, including team environments. However, assessment of the effects of automation on teamwork has been primarily limited to the aviation domain (comparing early conventional aircraft models with more advanced aircraft cockpits) and studies have produced conflicting information regarding the impact of automation on team performance, communication, and coordination. To more fully understand the implications of automation on system performance, researchers have begun to develop taxonomies and models of automation so that specific forms of automation can be defined and evaluated. A model proposed by Parasuraman et al. (2000) considers automation as it is applied to stages of information processing, including information acquisition, information analysis, decision selection, and action implementation. The objective of this research was to evaluate the effects of automation as applied to these different stages of information processing on the performance and coordination of teams in a complex decision making task. A simulated Theatre Defense Task in which teams protect a home base from enemy attack was used as a test-bed for this evaluation. Two team members were required to work together to share information in order to successfully complete the task. One team member monitored incoming aircraft on a radarscope and used missiles to shoot down enemy aircraft. A second team member monitored information provided by reconnaissance aircraft to classify the incoming aircraft as enemy or friendly. Four automation conditions were designed that compared different degrees of information acquisition, information analysis, and decision selection automation. Two levels of difficulty, determined by the number of aircraft presented, were used in the experiment. Dependent measures for the experiment included team effectiveness, quantity of team communication, team coordination ratings by outside observers, and task and team workload ratings. The results of the experiment revealed that different forms of automation have different effects on teamwork. Automation of information acquisition caused a decrease in the total amount of communication and an increase in the ratio of information transferred compared to information requested between team members. Automation of information analysis resulted in higher team coordination ratings. Automation of decision selection led to better team effectiveness under low levels of task difficulty but at the cost of higher workload. The fact that differing forms of automation had different influences on team performance in this research aids in explaining conflicting historical findings regarding the effects of automation on teamwork. The results of this research may have utility for the design of complex systems used in team environments.
Date: 2002-07-15
Degree: PhD
Discipline: Industrial Engineering

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