What a Special Operations Cognitive Assessment Should Look Like


Biggs A, Heller T, Colvin K, Wood D, Jewell JA, Littlejohn LF 23(3). 18 (Journal Article)

Special Operations organizations have recently demonstrated their commitment to enhanced cognitive functioning and improving brain health through the development of a Cognitive Domain. However, as this new enterprise becomes supported by more resources and personnel, a critical question involves what cognitive assessments should be conducted to evaluate cognitive functions. The assessment itself forms a crux in the Cognitive Domain that could mislead cognitive practitioners if not properly applied. Here, the discussion addresses the most important criteria to satisfy in the development of a Special Operations cognitive assessment, including operational relevance, optimization, and speed. Cognitive assessments in this domain must incorporate the following: (1) a task with clear operational relevance to ensure meaningful results, (2) no ceiling effects so that performance can support cognitive enhancement initiatives, and (3) the task itself should impose a minimal time requirement to avoid creating a substantial logistical burden. A dynamic threat assessment task supported by drift diffusion modeling can meet all requisite criteria, while also providing more insight into decision parameters of Special Operations personnel than any currently used test. The discussion concludes with a detailed description of this recommended cognitive assessment task, as well as the research and development steps needed to support its application.

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