Optimal cognitive performance in dynamic, high-pressure environments is critical to success in many occupations (e.g., defence, first responders, elite athletes). While it is generally agreed that optimal performance in these settings depends on a wide range of cognitive skills and attributes, their nature and measurement remain under debate. We partnered with the Australian Defence Science and Technology Group (DSTG) with the aim of bringing this knowledge together into a neuroscience-informed framework.
To do this, we conducted a Research Domain Criteria (RDoC) guided Delphi study to establish expert consensus on the key cognitive constructs that underlie optimal performance in dynamic, high-pressure environments. Over 60 world-leading performance experts joined our expert panel to examine critical psychological and neuro-cognitive drivers of high performance, shared across different occupations including elite sport, defence and high-stakes civilian jobs like pilots and first responders.
Experts agreed on the top-10 psychological factors underpinning high performance across all these domains. These include (1) Attention; (2) Cognitive Control: Performance Monitoring; (3) Arousal; (4) Cognitive Control: Goal Selection, Updating, Representation, and Maintenance; (5) Cognitive Control: Response Selection and Inhibition/Suppression; (6) Working Memory: Flexible Updating; (7) Working Memory: Active Maintenance; (8) Self-knowledge; (9) Working Memory: Interference Control, and (10) Shifting (expert suggested). This expert consensus will inform a range of high-performance applications, from measuring cognitive fitness to training its components and protecting it from performance-degrading effects of stress, fatigue, and distraction.
We have now begun a new project examining the measurement of these psychological factors.