Tumkaya, S., Karadag, F., Mueller, S. T., Ugurlu, T. T., Oguzhanoglu, N. K., Ozdel, O., Bayraktutan, M. (2013). Situation awareness in obsessive-compulsive disorder. Psychiatry Research. doi:10.1016/j.psychres.2013.02.009), I decided to write a little background about the test here.
There are two separate worlds of dynamic visual attention and memory research. One basic research domain studies "Visual Working Memory", whereas in applied domains reserachers study "Situation Awareness". Although each domain has a distinct focus (VWM tends to move toward understanding neural function, and SA researchers scale up to more complex kinds of awareness), much work from both camps involves looking and remembering objects on screens.
A while back I had the need to measure the impact of different stressors on general cognitive performance, and so I designed a test that could equally well be called a VMW test or a SA test. A video of it is available below:
The basic paradigm is that you watch a set of moving targets, and they will occasionally disappear, at which point you identify some aspect of the targets. Within the "Situation Awareness" theory, Level 1 maps sort of onto the location of the objects, Level 2 onto the identity, and Level 3 intent.
Recently, collaborators of mine in Turkey have published a new study using this task in which they gave the test to OCD patients and age-matched controls to determine whether they were particularly impaired. It turns out that there are impairments in even simple cognitive tasks like this one, which might give some insight into the nature of the disorder. The study was published in Psychiatry Research.
This is a rare connection between the two major applied fields of psychology: clinical science and human factors. In this case, a method and metaphor well developed in human factors was used to test a clinical population. The test is available in the PEBL Test Battery and is free to use or modify.
Tumkaya, S., Karadag, F., Mueller, S. T., Ugurlu, T. T., Oguzhanoglu, N. K., Ozdel, O., Bayraktutan, M. (2013). Situation awareness in obsessive-compulsive disorder. Psychiatry Research. doi:10.1016/j.psychres.2013.02.009
The abstract follows.
Past studies have suggested that OCD patients suffer memory impairment on tasks using complex stimuli that require memory for combined elements to be maintained, but not for more simplistic memory tests. We tested this with 42 OCD patients and 42 healthy controls performed a computerized situation awareness task. In addition, participants completed the Yale-Brown Obsessive Compulsive Scale (Y-BOCS) and Maudsley Obsessive-Compulsive Inventory (MOCI). The OCD patients had poorer accuracy in integration/comprehension and perception levels than controls. There were significant correlations between situational awareness scores (i.e., visuo-spatial monitoring and processing) and Y-BOCS obsession-compulsion and slowness and doubt scores of MOCI in OCD patients. In addition, there were also significant correlations between situational awareness and controlling, cleaning, slowness, rumination and total scores of MOCI in control group. Results indicated that (I) OCD patients have problems of perception, integration, and comprehension of complex visual perceptions; (II) situation awareness deficits associated with severity and prevalence of obsessions and compulsions.