When and why threats go undetected: Impacts of event rate and shift length on threat detection accuracy during airport baggage screening

Meuter, Renata F. I. & Lacherez, Philippe F. (2016) When and why threats go undetected: Impacts of event rate and shift length on threat detection accuracy during airport baggage screening. Human Factors: The Journal of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society, 58(2), pp. 218-228.

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Objective: We aimed to assess the impact of task demands and individual characteristics on threat detection in baggage screeners.

Background: Airport security staff work under time constraints to ensure optimal threat detection. Understanding the impact of individual characteristics and task demands on performance is vital to ensure accurate threat detection.

Method: We examined threat detection in baggage screeners as a function of event rate (i.e., number of bags per minute) and time on task across 4 months. We measured performance in terms of the accuracy of detection of Fictitious Threat Items (FTIs) randomly superimposed on X-ray images of real passenger bags.

Results: Analyses of the percentage of correct FTI identifications (hits) show that longer shifts with high baggage throughput result in worse threat detection. Importantly, these significant performance decrements emerge within the first 10 min of these busy screening shifts only.

Conclusion: Longer shift lengths, especially when combined with high baggage throughput, increase the likelihood that threats go undetected.

Application: Shorter shift rotations, although perhaps difficult to implement during busy screening periods, would ensure more consistently high vigilance in baggage screeners and, therefore, optimal threat detection and passenger safety.

Impact and interest:

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ID Code: 94790
Item Type: Journal Article
Refereed: Yes
Keywords: airport security, vigilance, threat image projection, detection performance
DOI: 10.1177/0018720815616306
ISSN: 1547-8181
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Health
Current > Institutes > Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation
Current > Schools > School of Psychology & Counselling
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2015 Human Factors and Ergonomics Society
Deposited On: 13 Apr 2016 01:14
Last Modified: 16 Apr 2016 21:24

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