Signal Detection Theory

For the last couple weeks signal detection theory (SDT) had been a conceptional theory I was studying for my Cognitive Human Factors qualification exams. Based on the readings, it didn’t really make sense to me…I didn’t see the point of it. However, after spending some time looking at it with Professor Hannon, I started understanding how it could be useful.

Being an engineer in the military there are numerous time’s I’ve designed or written requirements for some sort of visual display, icon, alert, etc. However, I never took into account or thought about the “signal” being presented to operators. For example, for my current research, I am looking at how to provide information to soldiers in heads-up displays. Using SDT, I could look at if a soldier detects certain directions that are provided by a heads up display and wether the signal is salient enough or not. With enough trials, I could use the SDT data to help make a better visual display.

While the math behind SDT looks difficult at first glance, it isn’t really that bad once you understand it. Professor Hannon provided a great excel file that you can manipulate to better understand SDT with…I’ll try to share it with Professor Intriligator and see if he can post it for the rest of the class on Canvas.



Posted on September 25, 2019 at 9:42 pm


Comments (2)


    September 28, 2019 at 4:34 pm

    Good thoughts! And, thanks for the Excel file. I will try to put it on Canvas for others to view.

  2. Thomas Ribeiro Reply

    October 1, 2019 at 10:05 am

    I’m interested to hear more about applications of Signal Detection Theory in the military, Farakh. I also didn’t understand the significance of SDT at first but now I see how it could be applied to any engineering or design field. Let me know if you’re able to share that Excel file!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.