Detection of Heading Changes in Tactical Displays: A Comparison of Two Symbol Sets


  1. Keillor, J.
  2. Thompson, L.
  3. Smallman, H.S.
  4. Cowen, M.B.
Corporate Authors
Defence R&D Canada - Toronto, Toronto ONT (CAN);Waterloo Univ, Waterloo ONT (CAN);Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center, San Diego CA (US)
As the technologies available for tactical displays evolve and improve, the development of tactical symbol sets with which to populate these new displays becomes an important issue. A new method for evaluating symbol sets was developed, using a “change blindness”, or flicker paradigm to simulate an operators shifts of attention during interaction with the display and environment. In addition to providing measures of an operator’s ability to discriminate symbols and detect changes in the display, this method also provides an indication of the extent to which operators may selectively monitor subgroups of similar contacts for change. In the present experiments two symbol sets were compared: MIL-STD-2525B, and Symbicons, a hybrid symbology developed by the U.S. Navy. Overall, Symbicons outperformed the traditional MIL-STD-2525B symbols when participants were required to detect heading changes in contacts. Furthermore, only the Symbicons allowed participants to take advantage of advance knowledge of the type of platform (sea or air) which would change heading. Neither symbol set permitted selective monitoring of all relevant contacts in the display, and further study is required to determine which coding dimensions best support this type of attentional selection.

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Report Number
DRDC-TORONTO-TR-2003-008 — Technical Report
Date of publication
01 Dec 2003
Number of Pages

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