'I Forgot I Had That .38 in My Bag': How Memory Failure Contributes to Passengers Carrying Firearms and Other Prohibited Items to Security Screening Checkpoints [open pdf - 1MB]
Transportation Security Administration (TSA) discoveries of firearms at U.S. security screening checkpoints have increased significantly in recent years. In 2008, TSA discovered 926 firearms, and in 2018, 4239. When questioned, passengers commonly state they "forgot" about the firearm. Following a qualitative research design, this investigation analyzed four cases from publicly available, open-source internet posts by individuals who were detained or arrested at security screening checkpoints. Through case analysis, four common themes emerged. Passengers 1) experienced a prospective memory failure; 2) were frequent flyers; 3) had recently experienced interruptions; and 4) were in a hurry. This thesis identifies factors that contribute to memory failures, such as interruptions, multitasking, and delaying actions. Mitigating concepts and strategies from cognitive psychology are explored, specifically, use of the Dynamic Multiprocess Framework; the creation of salient, distinctive, and unfamiliar reminders; encouragement of prompt action; employing mnemonics as reminding devices; inducing deeper levels of processing; and leveraging existing technologies. Concepts and strategies that discourage prospective memory failure are tested through a thought experiment designed to clarify and modify the mitigating concepts and strategies recommended.
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