Symbol Salience Augments Change-Detection Performance in Cockpit Weather Display

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Authors: Ulf Ahlstrom
Nicole Racine

Ahlstrom, U., & Racine, N. (2019). Symbol Salience Augments Change-Detection Performance in Cockpit Weather Displays. (DOT/FAA/TC-19/31). Atlantic City International Airport, NJ: FAA William Hughes Technical Center.


The goal of the study, conducted under the Weather Technology in the Cockpit (WITC) program, is to develop Minimum Weather Service rendering recommendations to resolve/reduce the previously identified gap of change blindness with the intent of reducing/resolving the shortfall of associate safety risks. This study evaluated the effect of symbol enhancement, symbol shapes, line thickness, and age-related effects on change blindness for pilots in relation to weather displays. Ninety-seven private general aviation pilots participated in this study. The participants experienced two part-task experiments for which they had to determine whether images presented to them were the same or different. Both experiments used a one-shot technique. We found an overall effect of participant age on discrimination accuracy and an increase in response time as age increases. We found a main effect of salience for detection of the line, lightning, and METAR symbols. There was also a main effect of line color discriminability, with blue lines having the highest discriminability, followed by the red and then black lines. In general, enhancing the display symbols increases the discriminability accuracy and reduces the response time. Although this part-task study shows that enhancing symbol salience may help improve change-detection capabilities, it does not evaluate whether these enhancements would be adequate to draw attention to displays in a dynamic cockpit environment.