Supporting decision making and action selection under time pressure and uncertainty: the case of in-flight icing

Hum Factors. 2001 Winter;43(4):573-83. doi: 10.1518/001872001775870403.


Operators in high-risk domains such as aviation often need to make decisions under time pressure and uncertainty. One way to support them in this task is through the introduction of decision support systems (DSSs). The present study examined the effectiveness of two different DSS implementations: status and command displays. Twenty-seven pilots (9 pilots each in a baseline, status, and command group) flew 20 simulated approaches involving icing encounters. Accuracy of the decision aid (a smart icing system), familiarity with the icing condition, timing of icing onset, and autopilot usage were varied within subjects. Accurate information from either decision aid led to improved handling of the icing encounter. However, when inaccurate information was presented, performance dropped below that of the baseline condition. The cost of inaccurate information was particularly high for command displays and in the case of unfamiliar icing conditions. Our findings suggest that unless perfect reliability of a decision aid can be assumed, status displays may be preferable to command displays in high-risk domains (e.g., space flight, medicine, and process control), as the former yield more robust performance benefits and appear less vulnerable to automation biases.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Accidents, Aviation / prevention & control*
  • Adult
  • Aircraft / instrumentation*
  • Aviation / instrumentation*
  • Choice Behavior*
  • Cognition
  • Decision Making
  • Decision Making, Computer-Assisted
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Reaction Time
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology*
  • Task Performance and Analysis
  • Time Factors