Healthy communication and interaction among astronauts and with the ground crew is vital to the success of extended space missions. Dr. Joseph Brady is developing a multi-person simulation in computer-generated environments to analyze psychosocial interactions, looking at the effects of selection, training, and experience within and between group members. This model will help ensure optimal performance in space and on ground-based activities.
Psychosocial Performance Factors in Space-Dwelling Groups
Joseph V. Brady, Ph.D.
Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
Distributed interactive simulation experiments characterize the effects of variations in the structure and function of communication channels within and between space-dwelling and Earth-based groups as well as the effects of stressful environmental and behavioral interactions upon psychosocial performance effectiveness. Simulation experiments also determine the effects of variations in the appetitive/aversive characteristics of incentive control systems as well as the effects of selection, training, and experience within and between space-dwelling and Earth-based groups. Communication modes, frequencies, durations, and content are recorded and analyzed with performance effectiveness evaluations based upon assigned group task outcome measures. Conceptual and methodological advances that effectively promote psychosocial and ecological stability will ultimately benefit larger societal units, including those that remain Earth-bound, by enhancing an educational and training technology that assures communication of an expanded generalizeable knowledge base. The results of these studies with scenario tasks requiring identification of geologic samples designated by five different rules in each region, showed clearly that cooperative and productive psychosocial interactions could be maintained between individually isolated and dispersed crewmembers in the simulated task environment.
All experimental flight crews actively engaged in communicating and effective problem-solving over extended time intervals without benefit of one anothers physical presence. In addition, the investigations of communication modality constraints indicated that, with the scenarios tested, there was a high degree of interchangeability between the available communication modes. For example, the effect of selectively removing text or audio communication was to increase the number of audio messages somewhat when text was removed, and produce a clear increase in text messaging when audio was removed. The overall performance evaluation however, showed no consistent effect upon crew total grade values of eliminating either text or audio. This suggests a high degree of functional interchangeability between these two communication modalities. Removal of both audio and text however, produced a marked decrease in overall performance effectiveness. Although there was a commensurate increase in the use of whiteboard scribbles, total crew grade values declined to less than half the baseline in the combined absence of audio and text communication modalities.