September 2021
Volume 21, Issue 9
Open Access
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   September 2021
You are the type of searcher you are instructed to be: The impact of task instructions on search in the absence of feedback
Author Affiliations
  • Patrick H. Cox
    The George Washington University
  • Dwight J. Kravitz
    The George Washington University
  • Stephen R. Mitroff
    The George Washington University
Journal of Vision September 2021, Vol.21, 2895. doi:https://doi.org/10.1167/jov.21.9.2895
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      Patrick H. Cox, Dwight J. Kravitz, Stephen R. Mitroff; You are the type of searcher you are instructed to be: The impact of task instructions on search in the absence of feedback. Journal of Vision 2021;21(9):2895. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/jov.21.9.2895.

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

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Abstract

Professions such as radiology and aviation security rely on visual search—the act of looking for targets among distractors. Often the searchers must perform in the absence of immediate feedback, which can create situations where performance may be disproportionately driven by the searchers’ expectations. For example, if searchers do not expect difficult targets, they may find easy-to-spot targets but systematically quit searching before finding more difficult ones. Without feedback, as is often the case in real-world search, searchers may reinforce their initial expectations (e.g., falsely believing difficult targets are rare) and create self-fulfilling biases (e.g., I need only search for easy targets). Here, two groups of participants completed an identical multiple-target visual search task which differed only in the initial instructions. Those in the “high-expectation” condition were told that each trial would have 1 or 2 targets present (i.e., suggesting no target-absent trials) and those in the “low-expectation” condition were told that each trial would have up to 2 targets (i.e., suggesting there could be target-absent trials). The low-expectation group had a lower hit rate and quit trials more quickly, consistent with a shift in quitting threshold. This effect was present from the start and remained stable across blocks. In sum, the current results suggest initial expectations can have long-term consequences, such that searchers who do not expect to find a target become less likely to find a target.

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