Our colleague at Macrocognition, Gary Klein, is a world renowned cognitive scientist who studies real world decision making. Gary published an article in Psychology Today, "Seeing What Other's Don't." Gary discusses findings from our DARPA-funded interviews with police officers and soldiers (specifically new officers) about their experience with critical incidents that hinged on social performance. It should be noted that T3 is, in part, based on Gary's work on the DARPA SSIM program as well as research that we collaborated on.
Gary found police officers made more effective judgments about social situations than soldiers did for several reasons. First and foremost, they had experts available to model. Police officers spend anywhere from four to six months in fully immersive apprenticeships with different mentors, many of whom demonstrated adroitness in how they made sense of and managed their social encounters. But what we were suprised to find was that police officers and soldiers had very different ideas about what counted as an expert. For police officers, their own decisions and those of the experts they referenced were near identical. But soldiers had a very different idea of expertise. Consequently, even when a soldier knew what the right judgment was, they second-guessed themselves and modified their course of action to reflect a less socially-sound judgment that they thought would correspond more closely to what their superiors wanted. In this case, authority constituted the grounds of judgment more than skilled performance itself. Implications for training are clear. Organizations must not only provide experts to model, but they must be clear about defining and making readily available what expertise looks like.