The Tracking Task

It seems to me there is some utility in the tracking task.

Last year, my wife and I bought a motor home, a 40-foot Alfa, diesel pusher. Driving it is very different from driving a car or the pick-up and 5th wheeler we had before the motor home. It handles and brakes like the 18 ton vehicle it is.

But, as with the car, my aim is to keep the motor home in the middle of the lane. I manage that via comparing at least four different perceptions against four related reference signals.

1. I try to keep the bottom of the vertical bar in the center of the windshield aligned with the right edge of the lane. That's my main reference point.

2. I check on how I'm doing via three other occasional but regular observations.

    a. I glance at the rear TV monitor to see if my tow car is in the center of the lane.
    b. I glance in my left rear view mirror to see if I'm inside the lane line.
    b. I glance in my right rear view mirror to see if I'm inside that lane line.

In short, I'm "tracking" the position of my motor home in relation to the lane. I do a very good job of staying just about dead center.

My wife, on the other hand, "rides" the right lane line (which makes me very nervous).

Without getting into mucky details, it seems to me the tracking task tells us something about eye-hand coordination, response times and the like that are relevant to driving an automobile or something larger. I also don't have much trouble envisioning some experiments that could correlate (yes, I said "correlate") success on the tracking task with actual driving performance. And, it's not a far piece from there to envision some kind of tracking task (although more likely some kind of simulation) as part of a driver-training, licensing pre-test).

Admittedly, the tracking task is an instance of what I some time ago labeled a "proximal" (i.e., near by in space and time) result so I doubt it correlates well with performance as a project manager (where distal results are the aim) but, what the heck, who knows? You never can tell.

Anyway, I see some utility in the tracking task that goes beyond observed performance on the tracking task itself.



Fred Nickols
Managing Partner
Distance Consulting, LLC

"Assistance at A Distance"