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Molly R McKinney, Heather A Hansen, Jessica L Irons, Andrew B Leber; An exploration of trait variables predicting the goal-directed control of visual attention. Journal of Vision 2019;19(10):234d. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/19.10.234d.
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When approaching a visual search, there are many strategies you can use to bias your attention – some more optimal than others. Vast individual differences in strategy exist and many individuals fail to use the optimal strategy. What factors might contribute to these individual differences? To address this question, we used the Adaptive Choice Visual Search task (Irons & Leber 2016), a paradigm designed to investigate how individuals choose their strategies. Participants are presented with a display of colored squares and tasked with finding one of two targets (red or blue) on each trial, and can freely choose which target they find. Across trials, the ratio of red to blue squares changes, so the optimal strategy is to search for the target color with the fewest squares. To explore what factors may influence optimal strategy usage, we collected self-report measures probing reasoning abilities (ICAR) and mindfulness (MAAS), and will collect academic transcripts (including course grades, GPA, SAT & ACT scores) as part of an ongoing study to determine if these measures, isolated or combined, predict performance. Initial results reveal that individuals with low MAAS scores show a significantly larger increase in optimality across blocks than individuals with high MAAS scores do, showing mindfulness may assist in utilizing the optimal strategy. Further, individuals with high ICAR scores (using a median split) find and utilize the optimal strategy significantly sooner than their low-scoring counterparts. Given the effortful demands of the ICAR, this suggests that either greater reasoning ability or more willingness to invest in an effortful task can contribute to more optimal strategy usage. Additional analyses will assess these self-report measures in company with the academic transcript data, for a more in-depth look at the interaction of these factors in the use of goal-directed control during visual search.
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