SCALE: Shared Cognitive Architectures for Long-term Exploration

National Aeronautics and Space Administration ( NASA)



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Among the remarkable team challenges NASA faces in long distance space exploration (LDSE) missions is the need to maintain team shared mental models (SMMs). Maintaining team SMMs requires the ability to detect shifts in cognition that will likely occur during the mission that could lead to ineffective crew functioning and performance. Maintaining team SMMs also requires validated countermeasures for bringing team members’ cognitive understanding back into alignment. Leaving low Earth orbit is extreme teamwork – team SMMs need to be maintained within teams operating close up (the crew), and between teams operating at an unprecedented distance (i.e., the crew & ground; 33 million miles in the case of a Mars Mission). A multidisciplinary research team leverages expertise in Psychology, Industrial Engineering, & Anthropology to understand the emergence and outcomes of critical shifts in team cognition over LDSE missions. What are the triggering events of SMM divergence, how can we detect them, and which countermeasures most effectively bring them back into alignment? This project leverages a novel conceptual framework of shared cognitive architecture (SCA) to understand the patterns of SMMs that dynamically link members of teams, and teams to other teams, as they go beyond low Earth orbit. We use semantic analysis to identify cognitive shifts, and relational event network analysis to understand the antecedents and consequences of these shifts. We use these alongside an agent-based model fit on LDSE analogue data, so that we can explore an exhaustive set of potential triggering conditions that must be unpacked to conduct efficient ground analogue research. We then conduct this research in HERA, Moonwalk, and Antarctica. The project culminates in the evaluation of a dashboard fed with the results of computational modeling, human validation, and lexical markers to detect and suggest countermeasures to maintain SMMs through time and space.

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Researchers Involved:


Marlon Twyman