20 Temmuz 2011 Çarşamba

The Role of Volition in Emergency Response

The response to an emergency situation may be pressing a brake of a vehicle. Or it may be a complex situation that has to be managed via “Cognitive strategies, such as, tolerating uncertainty, managing workload, planning for contingencies, and self-monitoring (Kontogiannis,1999)”. Emergency response may require the collective effort of a team controlling a dynamic complex system such as an electric or nuclear reactor.

The simplest response of an operator is a well memorized schemata, such as pressing the brake. He does not think about how to press it, this reaction to an emergency is an automatic process. Many drivers do not even remember how they managed to stop and escape from danger in serious accident conditions. They reacted with automatic processes which do not run in the working memory (Baars et al., 2007).

“all mental events are initiated and developed unconsciously. Indeed most mental events are probably completely unconscious(see Velmans, 1991). The chief difference between conscious and unconscious events could be the duration of the processes giving rise to them. If the duration is too brief, the event remains unconscious; it only reaches the awareness level if the duration is sufficiently long (Libet, 2006).”

This means, the faster we do things the more automatic processes we use. When we are doing something if an other thing interferes we try to continue the first job automatically. At first we may continue with attention division, doing two tasks with some attention dedicated to both. If the workload of the second task increases we try to continue the first task with automatic processes, namely using resources out of the working memory.

Automatic processes are fast but not flexible as conscious processes. Pressing the brake is simple, fast and does not require elaboration. Things get more complex when the duration and variety of reactions that make up the emergency response increase. For example, the situation of the road, other cars etc. In any case, a series of automatic processes may have to get mixed with conscious decision etc…

My point of this complete notedepends on:
Emergency response not only requires the execution of automatic processes but also their timely triggering, which has to be automatic.

Automatic triggering of events in the mind is done by setting intentions such as : if this happens, do that. There is a condition what to do if that condition is realized. This condition can be anything, time, place, event, feeling… For example, you can teach a child not to cry when she falls down.

Automatic triggering of events in the mind is simple teaching, training in the most general sense. More specificly, it is conditioning. You condition the operator, to react specificly under specific conditions.

The problem is: the training cases have to be limited in content and not too complex, because they have to be responded automatically. It is impossible to cover every and each condition that may happen in an emergency case. Automatic processes can not be flexible and adaptive.
Automatic process triggering can be viewed as a specialized memory process. Remembering something requires cues, keys to retrieve data. An automatic process triggering condition is the key to its action. For example, you set the intention that you will remember to buy bread when you come to the corner of your home’s street, then afterwards, you remember it when you come to the corner(Eysenck et al., 1996), provided that your workload and motivation and mental health enables it.

Last but not the least, It is crucial to foster and underpin an other form of volition in regards to this problem:motivation. Motivation supports and sustains every and each cognitive activity. It supports human creativity, serenity, drive anything that may help the operator in trouble. Cognitive flexibility depends on the availability of sufficient motivation.

A due reference to various religious practices may be: fasting which is supposed to be automatic, begins with setting intention. It is done with the first pronoun ‘I’ and using reflective consciousness. It is interesting that human uses self while promising that self is going to abide by the rule when consciously it will not be there…

The beauty of the human mind.


Kontogiannis, T. 1999. Training Effective Human Performance in the Management of Stressful Emergencies . COMPUTER SCIENCE, Cognition, Technology & Work, Volume 1, Number 1, 7-24, DOI: 10.1007/s101110050007.

Baars, B. J., Franklin, S. 2007, An architectural model of conscious and unconscious brain functions: Global Workspace Theory and IDA, Elsevier, Neural Networks Journal, Volume 20 Issue 9, November, 2007

Libet, B. 2006, Reflections on the Interaction of Mind and Brain, Elsevier Progress in Neurobiology 78 (2006) 322 – 326.

Eysenck, M. W., Keane M. T. 1996, Cognitive Psychology