September 2011
Volume 11, Issue 11
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   September 2011
What Events are Critical for a Lifeguard to Monitor? An Examination of Responses by Instructors, Lifeguards, and Non-Lifeguards
Author Affiliations
  • Lyndsey K. Lanagan-Leitzel
    Eastern Connecticut State University
Journal of Vision September 2011, Vol.11, 1338. doi:
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      Lyndsey K. Lanagan-Leitzel; What Events are Critical for a Lifeguard to Monitor? An Examination of Responses by Instructors, Lifeguards, and Non-Lifeguards. Journal of Vision 2011;11(11):1338.

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      © ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)

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A lifeguard's job is primarily visual surveillance, although the bulk of training focuses on rescue technique and first aid. Lifeguards are taught to search for certain behaviors that are indicators of drowning, but are also encouraged to prevent drowning. These target features are often ill-defined in the training manuals, and are present in non-distressed swimmers, so it is unclear if lifeguards are using these features to guide their search. In this study, lifeguard instructors (N = 10, median years since lifeguard training = 11.5, range = 3 – 41), lifeguards (N=10, median years since lifeguard training = 2.5, range = 3 mo – 5 yrs), lifeguards-in-training (N = 9, tested before surveillance training and again at the end of the course), and non-lifeguards (N = 20) watched 20 videos (two minutes each) of normal swimming activity at a variety of Connecticut locations (ocean beach, lake, indoor pool) and clicked on events they thought were critical for a lifeguard to monitor, and explained why. Over 300 events and general comments were provided by the participants, mostly related to horseplay (standing on or jumping off another's shoulders, excessive splashing), water depth (being too far from shore), and submersion. The lifeguard instructors provided 196 events and comments, but no single one was identified by all instructors. Only 14 events were identified by at least seven instructors, and these events were identified by the other participants, but not systematically by group. In fact, non-lifeguards often reported similar events as lifeguards. The top 40 events (identified by the most people) were analyzed further to determine whether instructors and lifeguards (on average) identified events faster than non-lifeguards and those in training. Preliminary results suggest that identification was faster with the lifeguards-in-training at posttest, but there were no differences between the other groups. This work reinforces the value of using visual cognition methods to examine and solve practical problems outside the laboratory.


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