Restrictions in working memory capacity during parachuting: a possible cause of 'no pull' fatalities

John Leach, Rebecca Griffith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Working memory capacity of novice and experienced parachutists was compared under three conditions: prior to exiting the aircraft, on landing and during a control, non-jumping day. Analysis of the operation span task revealed significant impairments in both storage and processing capacities of working memory prior to jumping. Storage capacity continued to be impaired in novice parachutists on landing whilst experienced parachutists showed full recovery. Neither group showed impairment in processing capacity on landing. Significant increases in heart rate were found for both groups in the jump and landing conditions compared to baseline but no differences existed between novices and experienced parachutists. Initial analyses support processing efficiency theory and suggest that cognitive processing may be slowing down during a jump. However, post hoc analysis of incorrect responses suggest that executive function may actually become disrupted. The results are reviewed in the context of ‘no pull’ parachuting fatalities.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)147-157
JournalApplied Cognitive Psychology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2008
Externally publishedYes


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