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Building The X-ray Screener's Mental Image Library

Posted by Vicki Tran on Monday, September 17, 2018 at 9:30 AM

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X-ray Screener Examines Luggage at Security CheckpointThe abundance and variety of items passing through a security checkpoint is overwhelming. Yet X-ray screeners are under immense pressure to examine all goods with speed and accuracy. This can be a difficult task considering throughput could be any combination of items imaginable.

In order for X-ray screeners to be successful on the job, they must constantly be exposed to different items under X-ray. Continuous practice is absolutely necessary to introduce new material to build upon a screener’s mental image library and keep the mind sharp.


The Mental Image Library

X-ray Screener Uses Their Mental Image LibraryThe mental image library is a screener’s mental storage of information on specific items and how they appear in physical form and X-ray form. It is the ability to see an item under X-ray and determine what it would look like in person given the information presented in the X-ray image and vice versa.

The information in a screener’s mental image library is used as a foundation to understand all future items which may pass through the X-ray system.


Start With Everyday Objects

Once screeners are familiar with the basics of X-ray interpretation, they should be introduced to simple X-ray images consisting of everyday objects most commonly seen for their specific checkpoint. For example, those working at an airport passenger checkpoint would benefit from examining luggage with clothes, shoes, toiletries, small electronics, etc. In contrast, those working at a cargo facility would benefit from examining X-ray images containing pallets of goods.

Training with common everyday items will build the mental image library and help solidify what certain types of items should look like under X-ray based on its typical shape, color, and density.


Strengthening the Mental Image Library

Introduce Varying Degrees of Complexity into TrainingAs X-ray screeners continue to practice over time, new and more complex images should be introduced into training. Complexity can be in the form of various threat objects, prohibited articles, clutter, dense shield objects, and unusual items. This diversity will greatly strengthen and expand the screener’s mental image library. So when screeners know what items are supposed to look like, it will be easier to identify anomalies.

To advance the learning process further, security training incorporating open images can be invaluable. Screeners will be able to correlate what is seen in the X-ray image to the open image of actual items and map out characteristics of specific objects to further develop their mental image library.



It will become second nature for X-ray screeners with a well-built mental image library to instantly recognize many of the items passing through the checkpoint. As a result, signs of tampering will be easier to detect and knowledge of how threats or contraband may be skillfully concealed can be applied accordingly.

How do you strengthen your mental image library? Let us know below.


Mini Library of Everyday Objects Under X-ray Presentation

Topics: Security Training, Training & Development