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Front. Psychol. | doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00640

Metacognition, Hardiness and Grit as Resilience Factors in Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) Operations: A Simulation Study

 Gerald Matthews1*, April Rose Panganiban2,  Adrian Wells3, Ryan Wohleber1 and  Lauren E. Reinerman-Jones1
  • 1University of Central Florida, United States
  • 2Air Force Research Laboratory, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, United States
  • 3University of Manchester, United Kingdom

Operators of Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) face a variety of stress factors resulting from both the cognitive demands of the work and its broader social context. Dysfunctional metacognitions including those concerning worry may increase stress vulnerability, whereas personality traits including hardiness and grit may confer resilience. The present study utilized a simulation of UAS operation requiring control of multiple vehicles. Two stressors were manipulated independently in a within-subjects design: cognitive demands and negative evaluative feedback. Stress response was assessed using both subjective measures and a suite of psychophysiological sensors, including the electroencephalogram (EEG), electrocardiogram (ECG), and hemodynamic sensors. Both stress manipulations elevated subjective distress and elicited greater high-frequency activity in the EEG. However, predictors of stress response varied across the two stressors. The Anxious Thoughts Inventory (AnTI: Wells, 1994) was generally associated with higher state worry in both control and stressor conditions. It also predicted stress reactivity indexed by EEG and worry responses in the negative feedback condition. Measures of hardiness and grit were associated with a somewhat different pattern of stress response. In addition, within the negative feedback condition, the AnTI meta-worry scale moderated relationships between state worry and objective performance and psychophysiological outcome measures. Under high state worry, AnTI meta-worry was associated with lower frontal oxygen saturation, but higher spectral power in high-frequency EEG bands. High meta-worry may block adaptive compensatory effort otherwise associated with worry. Findings support both the metacognitive theory of anxiety and negative emotions (Wells & Matthews, 2015), and the Trait-Stressor-Outcome (TSO: Matthews, Lin & Wohleber, 2017a) framework for resilience.

Keywords: metacognition, worry, grit, resilience, Resilience (psychological), stress, Psychophysiology, Unmanned aerial systems, Workload

Received: 18 Sep 2018; Accepted: 07 Mar 2019.

Edited by:

Changiz Mohiyeddini, Northeastern University, United States

Reviewed by:

Antonino Carcione, III Centro Psicoterapia Cognitiva, Italy
Roger Hagen, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Norway  

Copyright: © 2019 Matthews, Panganiban, Wells, Wohleber and Reinerman-Jones. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Dr. Gerald Matthews, University of Central Florida, Orlando, United States,