Towards Enhancing Intuitive Decision Making Through Implicit Training

Peter Squire, Joseph Cohn, Denise Nicholson, Margaret Nolan, Paul J Reber, Delphine Oudiette, James Niehaus, Alexandra Geyer, Liz O'Neill

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


A recent study published by the National Academies focuses on improving decision making (DM) abilities of small unit leaders, underscoring the significant weight that senior military leadership assigns to the art of training effective DM. DM training is often based on an analytical model which requires a methodical, step-by-step, time consuming approach to sequentially process data. While this model is appropriate for many military decisions, an interesting outcome from military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan has been the degree to which intuitive decision making (IDM), which uses a more holistic approach to processing information at a subconscious level, has been cited as playing a critical role in saving lives and enabling mission success. IDM offers distinct advantages during ambiguous military missions. For example: a leader may be forced to make a time-critical decision for which he can neither afford to wait for detailed, quantitative data, nor analyze new information without risking the tactical initiative. Nevertheless, the processes underlying analytical DM have traditionally been viewed as more amenable to training than those which underlie IDM. Yet, a growing body of results, ranging from biological to cognitive, suggests that IDM uses some of the same underlying neurocognitive structures that are affected by implicit learning, a type of non-conscious learning that occurs through repeated interactions with an environment. In this paper we propose that IDM may be enhanced through a novel regimen that enables acquiring domain knowledge implicitly. We motivate the theory that targeted, implicit training automatically strengthens, at the neural, cognitive, and behavioral levels, the same capabilities that are needed for effective IDM. We also provide a framework for testing and implementing this theory. The results from this work will advance the body of research in understanding IDM processes and inform and direct successful training strategies to develop IDM training for military leaders.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 2014 Interservice/Industry Training, Simulation, and Education Conference (I/ITSEC)
StatePublished - 2014


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