September 2017
Volume 17, Issue 10
Open Access
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   August 2017
Individual differences in susceptibility to irrelevant environmental influences predict visual search performance
Author Affiliations
  • Michelle Kramer
    The George Washington University
  • Rachel Wynn
    The George Washington University
  • Stephen Mitroff
    The George Washington University
Journal of Vision August 2017, Vol.17, 923. doi:
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      Michelle Kramer, Rachel Wynn, Stephen Mitroff; Individual differences in susceptibility to irrelevant environmental influences predict visual search performance. Journal of Vision 2017;17(10):923.

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

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Often it is vital to process currently relevant information while resisting task-irrelevant influences. For example, radiologists must focus on their current patient's images while blocking out the previous patient's details. It is intriguing to consider that certain individuals are more susceptible to task-irrelevant environmental biases, and how such biases could influence visual search performance. To investigate, data were analyzed from the mobile application Airport Scanner (Kedlin Co.,, a game wherein users assume the role of airport security officers searching simulated x-ray luggage for prohibited items. In a mini-game following each level, players were to quickly sort individual items as either prohibited or allowed. Critically, in any given mini-game, prohibited items appeared with a 25%, 50%, or 75% probability. Susceptibility to environmental biases was operationally defined as the magnitude of the accuracy cost in low vs. high probability conditions, with those who were more influenced by the task-irrelevant factor of item probability deemed as those with a larger bias. Individuals who were more susceptible to the probability bias were more influenced by trial-to-trial information in the main visual search task. Specifically, higher probability biases related to (1) lower accuracy during low prevalence searches, (2) higher false alarm rates following an incorrect target miss as compared to a correct target hit, and (3) slower and less accurate target identification following a target present trial than a target absent trial. Importantly, the magnitude of the probability bias did not relate to overall accuracy or target sensitivity, suggesting that the effects were specific to trial-to-trial influences. Collectively, these results suggest individual differences in susceptibility to environmental biases relate to a multitude of search performance metrics and highlight that certain individuals may not be best suited to conduct high-stakes searches (e.g., radiology, airport security).

Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2017


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