The Effects of an Auditory Versus a Visual Presentation of Information on Soldier Performance

Report No. ARL-TR-1992
Authors: Glumm, Monica M.; Branscome, Teresa A.; Patton, Debra J.; Mullins, Linda L.; Burton, Pamela A.
Date/Pages: August 1999; 102 pages
Abstract: This report describes a field study designed to measure the effects of an auditory versus a visual presentation of position information on soldier performance of land navigation and target acquisition tasks. Measures of situational awareness, stress, cognitive performance, and workload were also obtained. In the auditory mode, position information was presented in verbal messages. In the visual mode, the same information was provided in text and graphic form on a map of the area of operation presented on a helmet-mounted display (HMD). During the study, 12 military volunteers navigated densely wooded unmarked paths that were 3 km long. Although no differences were found between the two display modes in the frequency at which navigational and other tactical information was accessed, the analysis of responses to probe questions indicated that participants maintained a greater awareness of position with respect to waypoints, targets, and other units when information was presented visually than when information was presented auditorily in verbal messages. In the auditory mode, as the participants' perceptions of time demands increased, post-test scores on a logical reasoning task tended to be higher than pre-test scores. Although visual presentation of information appeared to enhance position awareness, differences between the two display modes in navigation and target acquisition performance were not found to be statistically significant. The findings of the investigation suggest differences in cognitive processing requirements between the two displays and the impact of attentional focus and practice on cognitive performance.
Distribution: Approved for public release
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Last Update / Reviewed: August 1, 1999