December 2022
Volume 22, Issue 14
Open Access
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   December 2022
Clutter degrades visual search performance for multiple targets in scenes
Author Affiliations
  • Elizabeth Brogna
    New Jersey Institute of Technology
  • Sophie Jedrysek
    New Jersey Institute of Technology
  • Yelda Semizer
    New Jersey Institute of Technology
Journal of Vision December 2022, Vol.22, 4501. doi:
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      Elizabeth Brogna, Sophie Jedrysek, Yelda Semizer; Clutter degrades visual search performance for multiple targets in scenes. Journal of Vision 2022;22(14):4501.

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

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Often, as we search through a visual scene, we are not just looking for one instance of an object, but multiple. These visual scenes tend to have distractors, and the extent to which these distractors are present increases visual clutter. Many studies have shown that visual clutter impairs performance while detecting and localizing targets in scenes; however, it is still unknown how clutter would impact search when multiple targets are present in a scene. In this study, we investigated the effect of clutter on visual search performance in the presence of multiple targets in scenes. Observers completed a search task that required detecting and localizing multiple targets from an object category within a set of Where’s Waldo images. At the start of each trial, observers were given a word representing the search target (i.e., umbrella). Then, they were presented with an image and asked to look for as many instances of the target they could find in the image and record their response. We manipulated the number of targets as well as measured the amount of clutter in each image. Our preliminary results showed that overall search performance declined with higher levels of clutter. Specifically, search times increased with higher clutter and was longer in target-absent images than in target-present images. Additionally, higher clutter and higher number of targets correlated with lower search accuracy. More importantly, the relationship between search time, accuracy, and the number of targets indicated early termination of search when clutter was lower. Overall, our findings suggest that clutter degrades visual search performance for multiple targets in scenes.


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