Measuring human behavior
April 19, 2012
PICATINNY ARSENAL, N.J. - Along the winding Snake Hill road in the Picatinny Arsenal 3500 area sits the Target Behavioral Response Laboratory (TBRL), which is responsible for providing answers to what engineers developing products seek most.
"What happens if …? Under these conditions, how will people react?"
The TBRL provides non-invasive, behavioral human research experiments with devices that are non-lethal, less-than-lethal, or enhance lethality. Essentially, researchers study the effects of products on live test subjects: people.
The TBRL has created test beds to evaluate designs based on the warfighter's most urgent needs and can create new tests to meet the needs of an individual project or customer. A test bed is a facility or an environment used for testing something under development to assist Soldiers in their duties.
The TBRL's is part of the Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center (ARDEC), and provides research services to ARDEC as well as private industry. The Department of Defense has sponsored numerous TBRL research projects.
"We do not just test devices we test how people (human research volunteers) react to those devices," said Charlie Sheridan, a research teaching specialist.
Effectiveness data is gathered on how people behave in response to the use of non-lethal devices.
The more likely a device is capable of creating the desired behavior in the human target (the target falls down or an individual runs away), the greater the device's performance.
Some of the less-than-lethal devices have included bright lights, loud sounds, flash bangs, and various blunt impact projectiles. The tests are conducted to study how people react to each of those devices and how they can be made more effective.
These studies are helpful to both engineers and the warfighter alike.
If a Soldier is guarding a military access control point in Afghanistan and a car is driving up to the check point at high speed, the Soldier may have a few non-lethal methods in his arsenal to deter the driver.
At this point,the Soldier is unsure if the driver is a threat to him and others or if it is simply someone who is lost or unsure of where he is going, or simply not paying attention to his surroundings.
The Soldier may use bright lights or loud sounds to see if he can get the driver's attention. But how will the driver react?
The same situation applies when entering a house or a room during a routine patrol.
The warfighter has the option of throwing a flash bang or use bright lights or sounds to deter occupants. If an occupant has a weapon and intends to use it,these deterrents might cause a delay long enough for the Soldier to detain the shooter.
These are the types of studies the TBRL conducts.
In certain situations, how are people likely to react?
The TBRL employs personnel with years of experience in researching human responses to energies involving non-lethal weapons and systems.
The TBRL is headed by Technical Director John Riedener,who handles inquiries regarding TBRL's research capabilities.
Riedener's staff is comprised of award winning research scientists, human research specialists and a team of biomedical, electrical, computer and mechanical engineers.
The laboratory team has a wealth of knowledge in various areas, including social psychology, psychophysiology, group dynamics, statistics, behavioral suppression, and escape or avoidance responses in realistic, tactically relevant military situations.
Emphasizing operational relevance as well as human subject protection and safety, the human research conducted at the TBRL is coordinated with and approved by ARDEC's Institutional Review Board.
Both indoor and outdoor testing has occurred on numerous test beds. Thus far, more than 1,000 research testing sessions have been recorded. The facility is equipped to conduct individual as well as large group studies.
Some of the areas of study previously conducted include:
• dismounted infantry survivability and lethality test bed
• outdoor tactical checkpoints
• indoor crowd control
• indoor non-lethal firing range
• convoy protection
• target discrimination
• non-lethal energetic effectiveness testing
Using motion capture technology, the lab has conducted outdoor testing with more than 100 scheduled participants in one session.
Confidentiality is extremely important when the TBRL submits results to the customer.
Thus, the names of subjects are never released.
Using a diverse subject pool that includes local residents, college students, and even ARDEC employees, the TBRL research studies include a wide variety of participants.
Participation is conducted on a volunteer basis.
Research participants generally receive compensation.
Not everyone qualifies for participation in TBRL research studies; each study has specific requirements for eligibility.
For more information or to sign up as a volunteer for a study, call 973-724-9620.
Most research studies take from one to six hours for completion.