Blogging on Division 21 talks from the 2012 American Psychological Association Annual Meeting: IED Detection
Improvised explosive devices (IEDs) are responsible for majority of deaths
or injuries in overseas combats.
In his talk, Dr.
Russel Branagahan discussed the techniques that he and his
colleagues used to determine the strategies that experts use to detect IEDs and
how this information can be used to create simulators for training novices.
Some of the techniques
that were employed are described below:
Observations and unstructured interviews: These techniques revealed that discovering
an already placed IED is very difficult and that success lies in detecting
the IED placement as it is happening. Individuals also exhibit certain
consistent behaviours during the IED placement process (such as
several individuals adding trash to a heap until someone finally planting
Concurrent verbal protocols: In this technique, the research team presented
sensor operators with video replays of IED events and concurrently
elicited information on the cues and strategies that they employed in IED
detection. This technique helped to glean important information with
regard to search strategies, camera operation, and contextual cues to look
for (e.g., people digging on the side of the road, disturbed
earth, and behaviour inconsistent with the time of the day).
Structured interviews: Through this technique, the research team asked
experts to walkthrough various suspicious situations and to explain the
cues that led to an alert. This provided information on important
environmental characteristics that need to be paid attention to, such as
pattern and activities of people (e.g., loitering, running, evacuating a
street), terrain (e.g., tunnel, trash), and things (e.g., car, dead
The information obtained
through these techniques will be used to develop simulator scenarios.