September 2021
Volume 21, Issue 9
Open Access
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   September 2021
Levels of visual clutter differentially impact search-based learning in naturalistic scenes.
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Christos Gkoumas
    University of Cyprus
    Silversky 3D VRT Ltd
  • Andria Shimi
    University of Cyprus
  • Footnotes
    Acknowledgements  This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Innovative Training Network, Grant Agreement No 813546.
Journal of Vision September 2021, Vol.21, 2081. doi:
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      Christos Gkoumas, Andria Shimi; Levels of visual clutter differentially impact search-based learning in naturalistic scenes.. Journal of Vision 2021;21(9):2081.

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

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Humans spend much of their daily time in challenging and noisy environments. Frequently, this challenge takes the form of visual clutter (VC), i.e., the amount and organization of objects that fill up space. Previous studies have repeatedly demonstrated the deleterious effects of VC on visual search performance in artificial and naturalistic contexts. Recently, several qualities of the home environment, including VC, have been associated with performance in a long-term memory-guided attention task in children, therefore expanding the potential effects of VC to cognitive processes other than visual search. However, our knowledge about how visual clutter might influence long-term memory (LTM), in adults remains limited. To fill this gap, we investigated whether VC impacts the efficiency by which people search for, learn, and later recall the location of targets superimposed on low- and high-clutter naturalistic scenes. Over four learning blocks, participants had to search for a target embedded within each scene and were explicitly instructed to remember its location. After a 15-minute break, they completed a spatial memory task for the targets’ location in the previously learned scenes. Results showed that participants became faster at detecting the target over the course of the learning blocks. Furthermore, in the learning blocks, they needed more time to detect the target within high vs. low-clutter scenes. In the spatial memory task, participants recalled the target location more accurately in high compared to low-clutter scenes. Yet, memory precision did not differ between the two clutter conditions. Interestingly, search time improvement during the learning phase (search slope) and the average search time across learning blocks were partially predictive of performance in high, but not in low, clutter scenes in the spatial memory task. These findings suggest that levels of VC differentially impact the way people search for and learn the location of targets in naturalistic settings.


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