It’s well established in military circles that the folks who tend to get awarded medals for their actions on the battlefield are the ones that exhibit a high degree of situational awareness. These individuals are somehow able to be both aware of the potential threats in the environment, and successfully weigh the risks associated with various courses of action and calculate the likely outcomes with lightning fast speed.Situation awareness, or SA, is the perception of environmental elements within a volume of time and space, the comprehension of their meaning, and the projection of their status in the near future. It is also a field of study concerned with perception of the environment critical to decision-makers in complex, dynamic areas from aviation, air traffic control, power plant operations, military command and control, and emergency services such as Fire Fighting and Policing; to more ordinary but nevertheless complex tasks such as driving an automobile or motorcycle.
Like the wiki article says, for most of us SA most often comes into play in other environments than battlefields or air control towers. People who have been in the car while I’m driving know that I tend not to talk much to other passengers if there’s much traffic present. This is because I’m paranoid enough about other drivers that I feel obligated to drive defensively. Similarly, whenever I enter a ‘rough’ neighborhood my ‘long range sensors’ also tend to go on, and I pay more attention to the surrounding environment than I would likely otherwise.
Few things are more annoying than being around someone who displays poor SA. Ever been a passenger in a vehicle where the driver is more focused on their impassioned political views and feels a need to establish eye contact with you rather than the nearby car executing a lane change without a turn signal? Or the driver who is constantly fumbling with the stereo, CD’s, cell phone, ipod, cigarettes, etc.? Ladies, do you have any friends that seem not to register any potential threats and display little reluctance to walk to their car three blocks away alone at night? Are their particular environments where you notice your senses seem to instinctively heighten - say, in the woods, highway, or urban environment?
Do you think you possess good/adequate SA? (hey, if you're alive and reading this you must have something going for you!)