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Kevin Barton, Daniel Smilek, Colin Ellard; The Relationship Between Blink Rate and Navigation Task Performance. Journal of Vision 2010;10(7):1040. doi: 10.1167/10.7.1040.
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Emerging research has suggested a correspondence between eye-blink rate and task performance. Recently, Tsai, Viirre, Strychacz, Chase, & Jung (Aviation, Space, and Environmental Medicine, 2007) demonstrated an increase in blink rate as a function of split attention during a basic driving task. However, the relationship between blink rate and navigation performance in a more complex navigation task requires further investigation. The present study investigated the relationship between blink rate and navigation performance as a function of the complexity of an environment using a two-step navigation task in virtual reality. Participants were asked to navigate through two novel virtual environments to a central landmark, and then were asked to navigate back to the starting position. The two environments consisted of identical buildings, but differed in their arrangement within the environment, resulting in a high and low intelligibility environment. Additionally, the influence of textural information was manipulated between subjects by providing either unique or uniform textures for each building within the environments. An analysis of variance on the overall movement paths, duration of navigation, and blink rate for both the exploratory and wayfinding tasks revealed a significant main effect of configuration on the distance, duration, idiosyncracy of each path, and blink rate of each participant. Critically, this effect was observed during the wayfinding task, but not the exploration task, with a higher blink rate and longer movement paths being observed in the low intelligibility environment relative to the high intelligibility environment. Only limited evidence was found for the influence of textural information on these results. Taken as a whole, these results provide early evidence for the differential allocation of attention during navigation through complex environments, resulting in reduced navigation performance.
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