Controller Scan-Path Behavior

Full Text: PDF icon Pdf (0.39 MB)
Document Number:
Publication Date:
Authors: Ulf Ahlstrom, PhD.
Ferne Friedman-Berg, PhD.

Ahlstrom, U., & Friedman-Berg, F. (2006). Controller scan-path behavior during severe weather avoidance (DOT/FAA/TC-06/07). Atlantic City International Airport, NJ: Federal Aviation Administration William J. Hughes Technical Center.


In the present study, we examined controllers’ fixation behavior on Storm Motion tools during severe weather avoidance. The data consisted of eye movement recordings from time intervals when controllers activated a static or a dynamic Storm Motion tool. Both of these tools provided information about the direction of storm cell motion and future extrapolated positions of the storm cell leading edge. By analyzing the location and extent of fixations, we performed an assessment to identify the static weather tool features that captured controllers’ visual attention (i.e., areas of visual interest). Second, we analyzed controller scan path behavior (a series of fixations and saccades) while they were using the static and the dynamic tools. Third, we assessed controller fixation prioritization strategies during static tool usage. Our analysis revealed that controllers focused their visual attention significantly more on the area between the storm cell leading edge and the 10 minute extrapolated position compared to other areas of the static Storm Motion tool. With regards to controller scan paths, we found that dynamic Storm Motion tools significantly reduced controller scan path areas, scan path distances, and scan path durations compared to the static tool. Furthermore, the mean pupil diameter was significantly larger for controllers while using the static tool compared to the dynamic tool, indicating a higher visual and cognitive workload during this display condition. We found little evidence for systematic controller fixation behavior while they were using the static tool. The few systematic patterns that we revealed were two-step fixation patterns (e.g., aircraft → 10 minute extrapolated position), and the vast majority of fixation orders (patterns) were unique to each individual controller. Evidently, the static Storm Motion tool provided weak affordances to controllers during tactical operations. We discuss these results in relation to the attentional capture phenomenon and suggest possible ways to improve static Storm Motion tools for tactical operations.