About Herbert Maier, Ph.D.

I received a Ph.D. from Texas A&M University for my work in defining and measuring the cognitive activity involved in combat-speed (one-second and less) tactical decision making. I have shown that the same interactive dynamic applies to teamwork as to competition--only the motivation is different.

Tactical Timing

Part of reducing the cost, effort or load of an action is developing a sense of timing. Aside from literal experience in a specific field, timing practice is all around us, from sliding through a door before it closes, to catching the rhythm of a string of stop lights. A very annoying example is the person who takes pleasure in cutting off every sentence you try to say. Timing ties in with SA (situation awareness) in using the low-demand part of a situational cycle to update information. People will develop habits to avoid having to pay attention, such as heading for the shoulder on a road no matter why traffic has slowed down. Investing in a habit of scanning at a greater radius (say, of 2-3 cars ahead and behind) pays off in giving time to make an intelligent decision instead of trusting a default (often over-) reaction.

Models and model systems are all the rage right now, especially if they can have a cool acronym and be marketed. But eternal, useful ones are all around us in “public domain”. Driving in traffic (hang up and LEARN something) has plentiful variety of situation and pacing.

Learning to notice what level of cycle is critical to our interaction is valuable. In music terms, we might be most interested in the pacing per beat, per measure or per coda. Every bum-bum-bum might be too fast to even track, while biddy-bum, biddy-bum might be workable. Or we might note that the Other cycles back to a favorite tactic every third, fifth or eighth time around, or presents a signature lead-in that tells us when it’s coming. It’s all about the Δt.

What is Tactical Cognition? – A Brief

“Thinking that interacts with another person, whether in competition or cooperation, is tactical.”

Tactic is interactive. It expects feedback loops and a sense of “mirror looking at mirror”, realizing that the puzzle is not a passive one, but another intelligence with a will that might be antagonistic. Tactic seeks advantage and tries to anticipate.

Functionally, cognition is thinking at a data-processing level. It is not interested in emotion or motivation. Cognitive Science developed in tandem with its sister, Computer Science. In trying to create a mechanical brain, people developed a conceptual model of what they felt they could mimic—linear processing of data. Since it satisficed (a good-enough link), or was close enough to be useful, it also became an approach to study the brain/mind.

See for more: TactiCog (sm)

Adult Learning vs. Child Learning

A major category of posts here will be on the topic of Adult Learning. This topic will underlie most others. There are different thoughts on this distinction. I want to start off being clear on the definitions that will be used here, and why this is important. These are unfortunate labels as they are misleading—the difference has nothing to do with age, though it has some connection to developmental level. People vary widely in what physical age developmental stages occur. We must keep our focus on the essential attribute even though the common label sends us astray.

“Child” learning tends to consist of defined problems where a particular “right” answer is desired. The great majority of our education nowadays is designed this way because it is easier to run in a factory-style setting, even if the students are physically adults. Easier is usually the keyword here. If learning, interaction and communication are kept in this modality, vital aspects of cognitive function will fail to develop for lack of exercise. They are probably not damaged, just lying latent, waiting on a call to action.

“Adult” learning also really has nothing to do with age. Adult learning starts with a problem-space in which the first action is to define a problem. Much of the play of children is actually of this type as they create games and scenarios of their own, turning a cardboard box into whatever they need at the moment. In the real world, two people producing two approaches are often actually solving two different problems. In a team situation, this can enrich the discussion and strengthen the efforts. In selecting between competing proposals such as construction projects, investment strategies or political elections, it can add enough to the demands of evaluation to just throw up the hands and pick something. In presenting competing proposals, it can lead to layers of glitter, pyrotechnics, back-room machinations and obfuscation as well as clear compare/contrast evaluations. Whether we lean toward clarity or not, these all enter the realm of tactic.

As listeners, we must practice skills of managing uncertainty and high consequence on-the-fly, or in current jargon “in real-time”.