September 2019
Volume 19, Issue 10
Open Access
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   September 2019
Pick up your bricks! Interactive visual search in a familiar real-world environment
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Marian Sauter
    Institute of Psychology, General Psychology, Bundeswehr University Munich
  • Wolfgang Mack
    Institute of Psychology, General Psychology, Bundeswehr University Munich
Journal of Vision September 2019, Vol.19, 255c. doi:
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      Marian Sauter, Wolfgang Mack; Pick up your bricks! Interactive visual search in a familiar real-world environment. Journal of Vision 2019;19(10):255c.

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

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Research on visual search is overwhelmingly limited to participants sitting in front of a computer screen pressing buttons. But how well do these effects transfer to real-life situations? In this series of experiments, we gradually investigated the feasibility of using an interactive environment to learn about how people search. We used a real-world search task that almost everybody has been familiar with since childhood: Finding specific LEGO bricks among many distractors. In the first experiments, the bricks were mounted on gray plates to mirror classic computerized visual search tasks. A specific target brick was contained on each plate multiple times. As expected, the results indicate that participants performed worse when they had to search for a feature conjunction and when the target was less discriminable from the distractors. In the next experiments, the to-be-picked-up target bricks (and up to 200 distractors) were poured onto trays. The results show that the size of the target brick was the major indicator for search difficulty. Target shape and color had only limited influence on performance. In the final set of experiments, participants were instructed to assemble four similar objects out of multiple different bricks. This included a search for multiple different target bricks simultaneously. First results indicate that participants first looked for multiple target bricks at once and picked up all they could find. Then, they specifically looked for missing pieces to assembled one object after the other. Overall, this setup proved to be valuable to learn about participants’ every-day search strategies. We are convinced that using the LEGO environment will prove to be an important method in future visual search research as it offers the applicability and generalizability of familiar real-world environments while also providing a standardized search space.


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