Air-defense experiments

Air-defense experiments

The Air-defense experiments were a series of management science experiments performed between 1952 and 1954 by RAND's Systems Research Laboratory. The experiments were designed to provide information about organizational learning and how teams improved their performance through practice.

Experiment structure

The series was constructed from 4 different experiments (code named "Casey", "Cowboy", "Cobra", and "Cogwheel"). The first of these ("Casey") used college students as crew for the air defense scenario whilst members of the United States Air Force were used in the latter experiments. For each of the 4 experiments different structures and timespans were used:
* "Casey": 28 college students, 54 4-hour sessions
* "Cowboy": 39 Air Force officers and airmen, 22 8-hour sessions
* "Cobra": 40 Air Force officers and airmen, 22 8-hour sessions
* "Cogwheel": 33 Air Force officers and airmen, 14 4-hour sessions


The purpose of the experiments was to examine how teams of men operated in an environment composed of complex information flows making decisions under conditions of high stress. The experimental design was to simulate an air defense control center in which the team was presented with simulated radar images showing air traffic as well as simulated telephone conversations with outside agencies reporting additional information (such as the availability of interceptor aircraft or confirmation of civilian aircraft). [The experiment report (see references) notes that: "Thus, the input to the center contains detailed, redundant information about a few very important events and many unimportant events in its task environment." ]

Results and conclusions

The experiment series generated a great deal of both qualitative and quantitative data and the results of earlier experiments were used to improve the experimental apparatus and organization for later versions of the experiment.

The first experiment ("Casey") was conducted with college students from which it was determined that culture was a large factor in team as well as individual performance. While an attempt had been made to approximate a military culture in the college student team, the researchers decided that use of actual military personnel would provide more success. Hence later experiments used exclusively servicemen.

The original experimental design was to provide a particular level of difficulty to determine how well the air-defense team was able learn the individual tasks as well as the intra-team coordination needed to be successful at the air-defense task. The research team also modified the experimental design after the results of "Casey", these indicated that crews were able to learn rapidly and were able to accommodate the level of difficulty, within a few sessions, to an effective level. [Once again the report concludes that: "the college students were maintaining highly effective defense of their area while playing word games and doing homework on the side."]

Beginning with "Cowboy", the air-defense crews were presented with a series of sessions each of which had a higher task load than the previous session. The task load was made up of two variables, kind and number of hostile aircraft and characteristics of friendly traffic (among which the hostile aircraft were sprinkled).

In the report on these experiments co-authors Chapman, Kennedy, Newell, and Biel (1959) write that:

ee also

*Business performance management
*Forming-Storming-Norming-Performing team formation model
*Key performance indicators
*Performance improvement
*Qualitative research
*Qualitative psychological research
*Quality management
*Quantitative research
*Workplace democracy



Further reading

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • The Egyptian Air Defense Academy — The Egyptian Air Defenses Academy (Arabic: كلية الدفاع الجوى), is the country s scientific military college aimed to supply the army with its need of the professional engineers. It was established in 1974. Graduates of the Air Defenses Academy… …   Wikipedia

  • Air Force Research Laboratory — Emblem of AFRL …   Wikipedia

  • Air Force reports on the Roswell UFO incident — The two Air Force reports on the Roswell UFO incident, published in 1994/5 and 1997, form the basis for much of the skeptical explanation for the 1947 incident, the purported recovery of aliens and their craft from the vicinity of Roswell, New… …   Wikipedia

  • Leviathan and the Air-Pump — Infobox Book name = Leviathan and the Air Pump title orig = translator = image caption = author = Steven Shapin and Simon Schaffer illustrator = cover artist = country = USA language = English series = genre = publisher = Princeton University… …   Wikipedia

  • Aerospace Defense Command — Emblem of Aerospace Defense Command (1969 1979) Active 1946–1980 Country …   Wikipedia

  • Hanscom Air Force Base — For the civil airport use of this facility, see Hanscom Field Infobox Airport name = Hanscom Field Hanscom Air Force Base nativename = Part of Air Force Materiel Command (AFMC) image width = 300 caption = Hanscom AFB 29 March 1995 IATA = BED ICAO …   Wikipedia

  • Hamilton Air Force Base — Infobox Military Structure name=Hamilton Air Force Base partof = Air/Aerospace Defense Command location=Located near Novato, California coordinates= caption= Hamilton AFB, 10 July 1993 type=Air Force Base code= built=1928 builder= materials=… …   Wikipedia

  • Dover Air Force Base — Part of Air Mobiity Command (AMC) Located near: Dover, Delaware …   Wikipedia

  • Clear Air Force Station —   Part of Alaska Air National Guard (AK AN …   Wikipedia

  • Strategic Defense Initiative — Organization SDIO Agency overview Formed 1984 Dissolved 1993 (renamed) Superseding a …   Wikipedia