Air-defense experiments

Air-Defense Experiments

Air-defense experiments

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The Air-defense experiments were a series of management science experiments performed between 1952 and 1954 by RAND Corporation's Systems Research Laboratory. The experiments were designed to provide information about organizational learning and how teams improved their performance through practice.

Experiment structure

The series was constructed from 4 different experiments (code named Casey, Cowboy, Cobra, and Cogwheel). The first of these (Casey) used college students as crew for the air defense scenario whilst members of the United States Air Force were used in the latter experiments. For each of the 4 experiments different structures and timespans were used:
  • Casey: 28 college students, 54 4-hour sessions
  • Cowboy: 39 Air Force officer and airmen, 22 8-hour sessions
  • Cobra: 40 Air Force officers and airmen, 22 8-hour sessions
  • Cogwheel: 33 Air Force officers and airmen, 14 4-hour sessions


The purpose of the experiments was to examine how teams of men operated in an environment composed of complex information flows making decisions under conditions of high stress. The experimental design was to simulate an air defense control center in which the team was presented with simulated radar images showing air traffic as well as simulated telephone conversations with outside agencies reporting additional information (such as the availability of interceptor aircraft or confirmation of civilian aircraft).The experiment report (see references) notes...
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