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Stephen Adamo, Matthew Cain, Stephen Mitroff; An individual differences approach to multiple-target search errors: Errors correlate with attentional deficits. Journal of Vision 2015;15(12):1372. doi: 10.1167/15.12.1372.
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Multiple-target visual searches, where more than one target can be present within a single search array, are especially error-prone such that a second target is more likely to be missed after a first target has been detected. This is a serious concern for many critical searches (e.g., radiology, baggage screening) and also raises interesting theoretical questions. Increasingly, evidence supports a resource depletion account of these errors—a first target consumes attentional resources leaving less available to process additional targets. The current study tested this account by comparing 60 participants’ multiple-target search performance to two other attention-demanding tasks: attentional blink (AB) and vigilance. The multiple-target search task had 1 or 2 targets per trial intermixed with distractors, and participants clicked on each target they found. The AB task presented two targets (letters) 100–800ms apart in a rapid serial visual presentation (RSVP) stream of distractors (numbers), and participants reported which targets they saw. The vigilance task presented targets (the letter O) in a RSVP stream with distractors (forward or backwards letter Ds) on top of a noise mask, and participants were to indicate every time the target appeared. Second target accuracy in the multiple-target search task significantly correlated with (1) a measure of how long it took second target accuracy in an AB task to recover from the blink, and (2) sensitivity (d') in the vigilance task. Participants who took longer to recover from an AB and who were less vigilant had more second-target misses in a multiple-target search task. Taken together, these results support a resource depletion account of multiple-target search errors in that they highlight an attentional underpinning; errors in AB and vigilance tasks are believed to reflect a deficit in attentional resources and the magnitude of these deficits significantly related to the magnitude of the multiple-target search errors.
Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2015
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