Sensing destruction

The New York Times has an interesting article on the role of ‘hunches’ in how soldiers detect roadside bombs.

The article is a little bit cobbled together, alternating anecdote with some indirectly related studies that seem to be included on the basis of speculation, but it does mention one ‘in progress’ study which seems particularly interesting.

In the past two years, an Army researcher, Steven Burnett, has overseen a study into human perception and bomb detection involving about 800 military men and women. Researchers have conducted exhaustive interviews with experienced fighters. They have administered personality tests and measured depth perception, vigilance and related abilities. The troops have competed to find bombs in photographs, videos, virtual reality simulations and on the ground in mock exercises…

The men and women who performed best in the Army’s I.E.D. detection study had the sort of knowledge gained through experience, according to a preliminary analysis of the results; but many also had superb depth perception and a keen ability to sustain intense focus for long periods. The ability to pick odd shapes masked in complex backgrounds — a “Where’s Waldo” type of skill that some call anomaly detection — also predicted performance on some of the roadside bomb simulations.

If you want more details about the study there are good descriptions here and here seemingly taken from military news coverage of the research.

Link to NYT piece on bombs and hunches.

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