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The relationship between stimulus-response mappings and the detection of novel stimuli in a simulated luggage screening task
Automaticity research suggests that consistent mapping leads to better skill acquisition than varied mapping. Other research demonstrates that in some situations varied mapping leads to better transfer. The effect of stimulus-response mappings in complex visual inspection tasks, wherein transfer stimuli might differ from training stimuli, has seldom been studied. Therefore, the effects of consistency vs variability of practice on learning and transfer in a simulated luggage screening task were compared. Consistent mapping led to faster and more accurate initial skill acquisition. However, during transfer, varied mapping led to higher levels of sensitivities and confidence and fewer deviations from optimal response criteria. Consistent mapping assists initial skill acquisition; however, in tasks where the physical identity of transfer stimuli might differ from those used in training, varied mapping leads to more efficient transfer. The results provide an important starting point for training individuals to achieve optimal transfer of learning in complex tasks. This research demonstrates that a combination of variables influence transfer of learning in real-world visual inspection tasks wherein transfer conditions may not be identical to training conditions. Acquisition of skills during training is facilitated by consistent stimulus-response mappings; however, in order to ensure optimal transfer of skills to situations involving novel stimuli, training should incorporate varied mapping of stimulus-response elements.