Purdue University Graduate School
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Investigating Cyber Performance: An Individual Differences Study

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posted on 2021-08-04, 15:51 authored by Kelly Anne ColeKelly Anne Cole
The persistent issues that have been identified in the cyber defense domain, such as information-overload, burn-out and high turn-over rates among cyber analysts leads us to question what the cognitive ability contribution is to a more successful cyber performance. Cyber defense researchers theorize that individual differences are determinants of cyber performance success but have yet to establish empirically the role of individual differences. Therefore, the study uses an individual differences approach under a work performance framework to study the contributions of cognitive ability (i.e., attention control) on cyber performance success in a specific cyber work-role (i.e., the Incident Reponder), and through its well-defined primary task (i.e., incident detection system performance). The sample included actual network analysts with a wide range of incident detection expertise, age, and education levels for more reliable and valid scores. The results of the correlational analysis showed that individual differences in attention control (i.e., flexibility and spatial attention) contribute most to the differences in Incident Responder work-performance. A linear regression model then demonstrated that spatial attention and flexibility predict 53 to 60 percent of the variance in cyber performance scores. It is suggested that the KSA's from the NICE framework be updated with the cognitive abilities that contribute to and/or predict cyber performance success, for superior recruitment efforts towards a more efficient cyber defense work-force.


Degree Type

  • Doctor of Philosophy


  • Computer and Information Technology

Campus location

  • West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Marcus Rogers

Additional Committee Member 2

Baijian Yang

Additional Committee Member 3

Umit Karabiyik

Additional Committee Member 4

Alexander Francis

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