The impact of computer decision support on military team decision making.

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The impact of computer decision support on military team decision making.

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This dissertation work highlights extremely valuable results regarding significant costs and benefits of using a computer decision aid by analyzing the impact of such a decision support tool on military team decision making. Decision support systems (DSS) are becoming increasingly popular as an approach to aid decision makers in making better decisions in a more efficient and effective manner. However, DSSs have both costs and benefits in their utilization, and there is no guarantee that a DSS will actually improve decision making or problem solving performance. This work shows that although a DSS has many advantages and can facilitate user problem solving, brittle DSS behavior can significantly degrade user decision making. The primary goals of this work are to improve scientific understanding of situations in which DSSs may improve decision making performance and those where the use of a DSS may actually degrade performance. Specifically, the heart of this work focuses on understanding and measuring the performance benefits and costs of a solution generating DSS on individuals versus teams, and on situations in which the DSS produces "brittle," or questionable solutions. Understanding the impact of brittle behavior is especially important given the domains in which DSSs are often utilized, including military, medical, and business operations. The results of decisions in these areas greatly impact dollars and most importantly, human lives, that may be saved or lost. The decisions teams make in military situations play a vital role in determining the success or failure of operations. Decision support in this study was provided by a component of a DSS tool called Weasel. A previous study in 2004 analyzed Weasel with respect to individual decision makers' performance and behavior [9]. This study analyzed team behavior and performance in a military context with military personnel working together in three person teams. The primary questions addressed by this work are: What is Weasel's overall impact on team versus individual performance and what is the effect on user performance when Weasel exhibits brittle behavior? Brittle behavior refers to the automated decision tool offering questionable, low quality courses of action for a given situation. As all DSSs will at sometime or another exhibit some degree of brittle behavior, the impact of such behavior on user decision making is vitally important. The results showed brittle behavior does indeed negatively impact user decision making behavior, and that individuals and teams demonstrated the same levels of performance with the use of the automated decision tool. The results of this experiment will help researchers and military personnel to better understand when it is appropriate to use decision support and to better understand both the benefits and the costs in team decision making by assessing when the DSS tool facilitated improved decision making and when performance was hindered by the tool. Additionally, information may be gained regarding situations where computer support and automation use may degrade performance.


University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. August 2010. Major: Industrial and Systems Engineering. Advisor: Caroline Hayes. 1 computer file (PDF); x, 140 pages, appendices 1-3.

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Larson, Adam Donavon. (2010). The impact of computer decision support on military team decision making.. Retrieved from the University Digital Conservancy,

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