Inference in the wild: a framework for human situation assessment and a case study of air combat

Ken McAnally, Catherine Davey, Daniel White, Murray Stimson, Steven Mascaro, Kevin Korb

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


Situation awareness is a key construct in human factors and arises from a process of situation assessment (SA). SA comprises the perception of information, its integration with existing knowledge, the search for new information, and the prediction of the future state of the world, including the consequences of planned actions. Causal models implemented as Bayesian networks (BNs) are attractive for modeling all of these processes within a single, unified framework. We elicited declarative knowledge from two Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) fighter pilots about the information sources used in the identification (ID) of airborne entities and the causal relationships between these sources. This knowledge was represented in a BN (the declarative model) that was evaluated against the performance of 19 RAAF fighter pilots in a low-fidelity simulation. Pilot behavior was well predicted by a simple associative model (the behavioral model) with only three attributes of ID. Search for information by pilots was largely compensatory and was near-optimal with respect to the behavioral model. The average revision of beliefs in response to evidence was close to Bayesian, but there was substantial variability. Together, these results demonstrate the value of BNs for modeling human SA.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2181-2204
Number of pages24
JournalCognitive Science
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Cognitive modeling
  • Decision making
  • Expertise
  • Mental models
  • Situation awareness

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