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Matthew Cain, Joseph Dunsmoor, Kevin LaBar, Stephen Mitroff; Trait anxiety is associated with increased multiple-target visual search errors. Journal of Vision 2017;17(10):687. doi: 10.1167/17.10.687.
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Miss errors are a persistent problem in multiple-target visual searches. In particular, in displays with a mixture of high-salience and harder-to-find low-salience targets, low-salience targets are found less often when they appear with a high-salience target than if they are the only target present. These Subsequent Search Miss (SSM) errors (a.k.a. satisfaction of search errors), are a long-studied problem in radiology and security screening. These searches are both difficult and high stakes: miss errors could lead to fatalities. As such, they present situations where searchers may experience anxiety. SSM errors have been shown to increase when searchers are experiencing anticipatory anxiety (i.e., waiting for a random electrical shock while searching; Cain, Dunsmoor, LaBar, & Mitroff, 2011). Here, in three experiments, we extend these previous findings to show that not only does state-based anticipatory anxiety increase SSM errors, but also that trait-anxious individuals make more SSM errors than searchers with lower self-reported triat anxiety, even with no externally-added anticipatory anxiety. In the first experiment, we selectively recruited individuals who reported either high (N=22) or low (N=18) trait anxiety on the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI; Spielberger, 1983) in a prescreening questionnaire or previous lab visit. The high-anxiety group had significantly more SSM errors than the low-anxiety group (t(35.328)=2.10, p=.043, d=0.67). In a second, preregistered experiment, we recruited 74 participants without pre-screening and had them perform a multiple-target search task, followed by the STAI. SSM error rate and trait anxiety scores were positively correlated (r(72)=.243, p=.037). Finally, in a third experiment with 69 professional airport security searchers, SSM error rate was again positively correlated with trait anxiety scores (r(67)=.251, p=.038). Collectively, these results suggest that both acute anxiety caused by the task and chronic anxiety that the searcher brings with them to the task can make already difficult searches even more error-prone
Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2017
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