Age and automation interact to influence performance of a simulated screening task

Douglas Wiegmann, Jason S. McCarley, Arthur F Kramer, Christopher D. Wickens

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction: An experiment examined the impact of automation on young and old adults' abilities to detect threat objects in a simulated baggage-screening task. Method: Younger and older adult participants viewed X-ray images of cluttered baggage, 20% of which contained a hidden knife. Some participants were provided an automated aid with a hit rate of 0.90 and a false alarm rate of 0.25. The aid provided assistance to participants in one of three forms: a text message that appeared before the stimulus image; a text message that appeared following the stimulus image; or a spatial cue concurrent with the stimulus image. Control participants performed the task with no assistance from an aid. Results: Spatial cuing improved performance for both age groups. Text cuing improved young adults' performance, but had no benefit for older participants. Effects were similar whether the text cue preceded or followed the search stimulus itself. Discussion: Results indicate that spatial cuing rather than text alerts may be more effective in aiding performance during a baggage screening task and such benefits are likely to occur regardless of operator age.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)825-831
Number of pages7
JournalAviation Space and Environmental Medicine
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2006


  • Aging
  • Automation
  • Decision making

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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