Investigating the Relationship Between Simulated Depth, Cognitive Function and Metacognitive awareness

TitleInvestigating the Relationship Between Simulated Depth, Cognitive Function and Metacognitive awareness
Publication TypeBook
Year of Publication2004
AuthorsHarding, S, Perfect, T, Bryson, PJ
PublisherHealth & Safety Executive
ISBN NumberISBN 0 7176 2884 1

Both susceptibility to and awareness of performance impairment in hyperbaric environments is of recognised interest. Past research, using small samples in uncontrolled conditions, identified changes in psychometric performance during exposure to hyperbaric environments, but not differences in divers’ perception of, and actual change in, performance. This study investigates the level of awareness in divers by replicating these tasks in controlled environments. Divers were recruited from the United Kingdom diving community, reflecting age and gender spread within this population. 103 participants completed a computer-based task battery containing 4 cognitive measures (Reaction Time, Motion Tracking, Long Term Memory, Letter Rotation), designed to evaluate varying levels of cognitive function. Psychometric data were analysed with Repeated Measures ANOVA and Bonferroni post hoc pair-wise comparison. Metacognitive judgements were analysed with Wilcoxon’s signed rank test. No cognitive deficit was detected with increasing pressure. Metacognitive data indicated that at 5 ATA, participants perceived their performance would be worse (P ≤ 0.01) than at 1 ATA on the Reaction Time task. After the task, the participants believed their performance to be no different at 5 ATA to 1 ATA. This trend reversed with the Long Term Memory task. Participants perceived they would perform better (P ≤ 0.03) at 5 ATA than at 1 ATA. Participants may concentrate more on tasks whilst under pressure, thereby performing more successfully. Participants’ confidences in their abilities were affected by hyperbaric pressures. At 5 ATA, light cognitive tasks showed reductions in confidence prior to the task, whereas, demanding tasks showed increasing confidence, indicating subjective judgements should be questioned.