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Communication in High Risk Environments

Herausgeber: Dietrich, Rainer

Linguistische Berichte, Sonderhefte, Bd. 12


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Eine Zigarre rauchen, Zeitung lesen und sich am Kopf kratzen, das kann man gleichzeitig - und zwar mühelos, konstatiert John Searle. Ein Auto im Dunkeln in eine enge Parklücke rangieren und zugleich dem Beifahrer erklären, wo die Opernkarten sind, ist heikel und mehr als heikel, wenn die Ouvertüre schon begonnen hat. Dass die Sprachverwendung, produktiv und perzeptiv, eine anspruchsvolle kognitive Aktivität ist, zeigt sich, wenn das kognitive System gleichzeitig andere anspruchsvolle Leistungen durchführt. Dann vermindert sich die Leistung, die eine oder die andere oder beide. Die Frage nach der sprachliche Performanz unter so genannten Doppelaufgabenbedingungen ist für die Sprachforschung so spannend wie ungewohnt. Antworten darauf sind nicht nur von akademischem Interesse. Im Cockpit eines Linienjets, am Operationstisch und in der Leitwarte eines Kernkraftwerks verursacht eingeschränkte Kommunikationsleistung unmittelbare Gefahr. In diesem Heft berichten u.a. Linguisten und Psycholinguisten (Krifka, Dietrich), Human-Factors-Experten (Helmreich, Sexton), Arbeitspsychologen (Grote, Sträter) über Prinzipien der Sprachverwendung unter Aufgabendruck und Zeitdruck. Abstracts: Using Language in the Cockpit: Relationships with Workload and Performance J. Bryan Sexton & Robert L. Helmreich Few events attract as much international attention as an accident involving a commercial jumbo jet airplane. The public, the airlines, the airplane manufacturers, and particularly the friends and family of passengers demand answers. The work presented here illustrates the importance of flight deck communication in flight safety through a simulator study of how and what pilots communicate. This investigation utilized a computer-based linguistic method of text analysis as well as a micro-coding of communication content. Analyses of simulator transcripts demonstrated that several Language dimensions were associated with higher performance, fewer errors, and better communication. The ways in which pilots used Language varied as a function of crew position and level of workload. Additionally, Language use in the first flight of a crew pairing was associated with performance in subsequent flights. Group Interaction in the Cockpit: Some Linguistic Factors Manfred Krifka, Silka Martens, and Florian Schwarz For a number of years it has been recognized that the social dynamics of group interaction is an import factor in the origin of accidents and in the way how accidents or accident-prone situations are handled in aviation (cf. Helmreich 1997a, 1997b). Factors related to interpersonal communication have been implicated in up to 80% of all aviation accidents over the past 20 years. As a reaction to this, Crew Resource Management (CRM) has been developed with the goal of rating and improving crew performance in aviation and in other fields in which professional groups interact in situations of high taskload and potential risk (cf. Helmreich ea. 1999). As far as this can be estimated at all, installing CRM techniques in the major American and European airlines has resulted in a definite improvement in the safety of commercial aviation. In spite of this success of CRM, practitioners in the field feel that, beyond the general social dynamics of group interaction, there might be potential problems relating to Language and communication in such settings. In this article, we first summarize some aspects of previous research in this area. Then we report findings from a project that one of us, Manfred Krifka, has carried out, using transcripts of flight simulator sessions with pilots of a commercial American airline. We will discuss some of the problems of this project. Finally, we describe an ongoing continuation of that project that uses flight simulator sessions with pilots of a commercial German airline. The Organisation of Coherence in Oral Communication Rainer Dietrich & Patrick Grommes How do interlocutors manage to have their contribution to the discourse to be understood as coherent? Language use is a special case of a joint action performed by the speaker and the hearer in a situational setting. An essential subtask of the communicative interaction is making each turn a part of the whole. In this paper, we address the question of how the interlocuters adapt their linguistic behaviour to common ground factors established by the situational setting in the operating room and in the cockpit of an airplane. Authentic data from this type of institutional conversation under varying conditions of workload are analysed. The results show that under conditions of increased workload the balance between explicit linguistic coding of information and non-verbal communication is shifted in favour of the latter. This does not affect the success of the communication in the OR-setting, while it does affect the cockpit-setting. The difference is explained as a consequence of differences in the amount of shared focus of attention on the side of the interlocutors. A model of coherent performance is proposed that integrates theories of common ground, discourse production and structural properties of texts. Effects of Standardization on Coordination and Communication in High Workload Situations Gudela Grote, Enikö Zala-Mezö and Patrick Grommes In the following article we outline a research proposal with the main question: how does standardization influence coordination processes. We focus on two high risk systems, aviation and medicine, where work processes in the former are much more standardized than in the latter. We show the theoretical background from both traditional and more recent research perspectives. In our methodology we combine methods from linguistic and from organizational psychology: we analyze the communication processes quantitatively based on observational categories related to information flow and leadership as well as more qualitatively using linguistic categories (Grommes & Dietrich, this issue) and indicators for heedful interrelating (Weick & Roberts, 1993). The aim of the study is to identify different types of coordination patterns under conditions of high versus low work load and high versus low standardization. Investigation of Communication Errors in Nuclear Power Plants Oliver Sträter Communication is a major aspect for assuring safety of a Nuclear Power Plant (NPP). However, it's impacts is also one of the most difficult things to investigate, since communication means verbal and non-verbal exchange of information between several operators in several locations inside and outside of the plant. In order to approach this complex issue, a "top-down" investigation procedures was Set-up. It starts with an investigation of operational events regarding possible communication problems. In a sequel of this work, a detailed experimental setting is investigating the interrelation between communication and cognition. The investigation of 232 events showed that factors like workload and situational pressure influence the communication process and communication failures also have an impact on the operational side (they lead, for instance, to more initiators of technical failures than procedural driven actions). This observation suggests that errors in communication and errors on the operational side cannot be treated independently from each other. Communication problems were further investigated regarding their underlying causes. In the investigation it was observed that they can be traced back to cognitive compensation strategies like reduction of problem spaces or reduction of the Set of goals. Their common appearance with operational errors is reflecting a common problem in cognitive processing of operators. However, operational experience also shows that good communication can be observed in high workload conditions. Detailed analysis of the events is showing that this contradiction can be resolved if the communication task is related to the operational task that has to be performed at the technical system. Communication problems are explainable if the cognitive load caused by the operational task of the operators is considered as either in distraction or in consonance with the communication task. The aim of the second phase of the project is to investigate the nature of these limitations of communication due to cognitive processing in more detail. This work has been funded by the Daimler Benz foundation in the framework of the multidisciplinary project GIHRE (Group Interaction in High Risk Environments) and was performed at GRS (Gesellschaft für Reaktorsicherheit) in Germany. The work described in this paper does not necessarily reflect the opinion of GRS or EUROCONTROL.