September 2017
Volume 17, Issue 10
Open Access
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   August 2017
Predicting airport screening officers' visual search competency with a rapid assessment
Author Affiliations
  • Stephen Mitroff
    The George Washington University
  • Justin Ericson
    The George Washington University
  • Benjamin Sharpe
    Kedlin Company
Journal of Vision August 2017, Vol.17, 91. doi:
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      Stephen Mitroff, Justin Ericson, Benjamin Sharpe; Predicting airport screening officers' visual search competency with a rapid assessment. Journal of Vision 2017;17(10):91. doi:

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      © ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)

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Visual search is a vital cognitive ability for a variety of professions, including airport security, radiology, and the military. Given the importance of such professions, it is necessary maximize performance, and one means to do so is to select individuals based upon their visual search competency. Recent work has suggested that it is possible to quickly classify individuals as strong or weak visual searchers (Ericson, Kravitz, & Mitroff, Psychonomic Society 2016); demonstrating that those who started out faster and more accurate were more likely to have superior performance later in the task. A critical question is whether it is possible to predict search competency within a professional search environment. The current study examined whether a relatively quick visual search task could predict professional searchers' actual on-job performance. Over 600 professional searchers from the USA Transportation Security Administration (TSA) completed an approximately 10-minute assessment on a tablet-based XRAY simulator (derived from Airport Scanner; Kedlin Co.). The assessment contained 72 trials that were simulated XRAY images of bags. Targets (0 or 1 per trial) were drawn from a set of 20 prohibited items, and distractors (5 to 15 per trial) were taken from a set of 100 allowed items. Participants searched for prohibited items and tapped on them with their finger. Two tutorials had to be successfully complete prior to the assessment. Performance on the assessment significantly related to three on-job measures of performance for the TSA officers: (1) detecting simulated threat items projected into actual carry-on bags, (2) detecting real threat items covertly introduced into the checkpoint, and (3) an annual proficiency exam. These findings suggest that it may be possible to quickly identify potential hires based on their core visual search competency, which could provide organizations the ability to make new hires and assess their current workforce.

Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2017


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