An information theory analysis of duration of lifeguards' scanning

Percept Mot Skills. 2003 Aug;97(1):129-34. doi: 10.2466/pms.2003.97.1.129.


Observers recorded the duration of scanning by six lifeguards in three indoor swimming pools. Duration of scanning was significantly predicted by the absolute numbers of child swimmers (< 17 years) in the pools and when numbers of child swimmers were represented in terms of bits of information. Duration of scanning increased as a linear function of both numbers of children and child bits of information. These results are interpreted in terms of the Hick-Hyman law of information theory. Lifeguards appear to simplify the task of information processing and decision-making by concentrating on children as a more at-risk group of swimmers. Duration of scanning was not significantly related to changes in number of adult swimmers.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Decision Making
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Psychological Theory*
  • Reaction Time*
  • Rescue Work*
  • Swimming Pools*
  • Visual Perception*