Different predictors of multiple-target search accuracy between nonprofessional and professional visual searchers.
Visual search, locating target items among distractors, underlies daily activities ranging from critical tasks (e.g., looking for dangerous objects during security screening) to commonplace ones (e.g., finding your friends in a crowded bar). Both professional and nonprofessional individuals conduct visual searches, and the present investigation is aimed at understanding how they perform similarly and differently. We administered a multiple-target visual search task to both professional (airport security officers) and nonprofessional participants (members of the Duke University community) to determine how search abilities differ between these populations and what factors might predict accuracy. There were minimal overall accuracy differences, although the professionals were generally slower to respond. However, the factors that predicted accuracy varied drastically between groups; variability in search consistency-how similarly an individual searched from trial to trial in terms of speed-best explained accuracy for professional searchers (more consistent professionals were more accurate), whereas search speed-how long an individual took to complete a search when no targets were present-best explained accuracy for nonprofessional searchers (slower nonprofessionals were more accurate). These findings suggest that professional searchers may utilize different search strategies from those of nonprofessionals, and that search consistency, in particular, may provide a valuable tool for enhancing professional search accuracy.
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