Is CCTV surveillance as effective as popular television crime series suggest? Cognitive challenges

Document Type

Conference Proceeding


Springer Nature

Place of Publication

Cham, Switzerland


School of Science




Donald, F. M., & Donald, C. (2018, August). Is CCTV surveillance as effective as popular television crime series suggest? Cognitive challenges. In Congress of the International Ergonomics Association(pp. 413-420). Springer, Cham.

Available here.


The aim of this paper is to review the human and information processing factors that need to be addressed in order to improve closed circuit television (CCTV) surveillance effectiveness and to make recommendations regarding future research. This is done by contrasting the way in which CCTV is portrayed in popular television crime series with the challenges inherent in real world CCTV surveillance systems. Despite considerable amounts of money being spent on the equipment needed for CCTV systems, the work of operators is often poorly valued although the monitoring process is difficult and mentally demanding. There are many factors that affect the effectiveness of CCTV surveillance systems, and this paper focuses on the information processing demands on CCTV surveillance operators. Previous research on the human factors in CCTV were reviewed, and episodes in popular crime series which showed CCTV were observed and analysed. Key aspects that emerged were the cognitive demands made on CCTV surveillance operators by the design of the technical system and their job, the nature of scenes observed and the characteristics of significant events. These placed demands on the interaction of goal-directed and stimulus-driven attention, search strategies employed, distributed situation awareness, visual analysis, processes that impair detection, and the effects of certain job designs on monitoring. Recommendations for future research were made.



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