Date of Award

6-2017

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts in General Experimental Psychology

Department

Psychology

First Reader/Committee Chair

Koshino, Hideya

Abstract

Public safety radio dispatchers incontrovertibly have to manage multiple tasks at any given time, from relaying lifesaving information to field units, to simultaneously overseeing several monitors and keeping up with the radio transmissions in a timely manner. Interestingly, however, the underlying cognitive abilities necessitated for performing such tasks have not been thoroughly investigated. To begin understanding the cognitive faculties that underlie dispatching tasks, we gauged cognitive ability measures relevant to dispatcher duties and introduced Working Memory Capacity (WMC) as underlying the differentiation on performance. The four general dispatcher cognitive factors identified by Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) literature, were Reasoning, Perceptual, Memory, and Verbal. This study substantiated the relationship that higher WMC had on increased performance of the four factors; WMC was a strong predictor of overall cognitive task accuracy. This study also measured dispatcher abilities detached from any dispatcher-like duties, to better explore the cognitive underpinnings without the confound of dispatcher-like tasks within the measures. High and low WMC group comparisons also revealed accuracy differences in cognitive abilities, task switching costs, and dual-task interference. Overall, this study provides support for WMC’s executive functioning as a key underlying mechanism determining dispatcher cognitive ability level.