Accession Number:



Errors in the Heat of Battle: Taking a Closer Look at Shared Cognition Breakdowns Through Teamwork

Descriptive Note:

Journal article

Corporate Author:


Report Date:


Pagination or Media Count:



We developed a theoretically based taxonomy for classifying shared cognition breakdowns related to teamwork which contribute to fratricide incidents. Background Fratricide on the battlefield is an inescapable cost of war. A number of technological advancements have been made in terms of combat identification systems to reduce the risk of these incidents. However, fratricide continues to occur at alarming rates. Method We take a human-centered approach to understanding errors leading to fratricide incidents by focusing on shared cognition. We turn to the literature and provide the theoretical foundations for an error classification taxonomy to improve understanding of why fratricide incidents occur. Based on our review of the literature, we identified a number of problem areas leading to fratricide incidents. However, many of the cited contributing factors were broad terms e.g., poor coordination and did little to tell us why the breakdown occurred and where improvements are needed. Therefore, we chose to focus on one specific area - teamwork breakdowns - and discuss in depth how these breakdowns contribute to fratricide. In this paper, we take a first step toward proposing a taxonomy that allows for the diagnostic assessment of what causes teamwork breakdowns in fratricide. We understand that a taxonomy is only as good as the data available and encourage richer case studies from which to learn. Application To apply this taxonomy in an operational setting, we provide a set of behavioral markers that can be used to identify teamwork breakdowns on the battlefield.

Subject Categories:

  • Psychology
  • Biology
  • Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics

Distribution Statement: