Holistic Thinking and Air Traffic Controllers' Decision Making in Conflict Resolution

When facing potential conflicts, whether to make interventions is an important decision for air traffic controllers and vital for aviation safety and efficiency. While many task-related factors in influencing such decisions have been identified, the large portion of individual differences has remained insufficiently explained. This paper proposes that controllers with a more holistic thinking style will be more likely to make interventions because they envision more uncertainties in the system which can lead to a higher level of perceived risk and a greater likelihood to take proactive measures. To test these hypotheses, forty-two licensed controllers were invited to complete a questionnaire measuring holistic thinking style and later a conflict detection/resolution task. Multilevel regression analyses showed that (1) when the real risk level (the minimum lateral distance between two converging aircraft) dropped, controllers who think more holistically still tended to maintain a higher risk perception level (perceived likelihood of aircraft collision in the future) which lead to a higher intervention ratio and (2) even when real and perceived risk levels were controlled, those who think more holistically were more likely to make interventions. These findings are discussed with reference to literature in cognitive style, risk perception and workload management. Potential implications for personnel selection and training are also discussed.


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  • Accession Number: 01626478
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: Feb 27 2017 9:06AM