Targets Need Their Own Personal Space: Effects of Clutter on Multiple-Target Search Accuracy.
Visual search is an essential task for many lifesaving professions; airport security personnel search baggage X-ray images for dangerous items and radiologists examine radiographs for tumors. Accuracy is critical for such searches; however, there are potentially negative influences that can affect performance; for example, the displays can be cluttered and can contain multiple targets. Previous research has demonstrated that clutter can hurt search performance and a second target is less likely to be detected in a multiple-target search after a first target has been found, which raises a concern-how does clutter affect multiple-target search performance? The current study explored clutter in a multiple-target search paradigm, where there could be one or two targets present, and targets appeared in varying levels of clutter. There was a significant interaction between clutter and target number: Increasing levels of clutter did not affect single-target detection but did reduce detection of a second target. Multiple-target search accuracy is known to be sensitive to contextual influences, and the current results reveal a specific effect wherein clutter disproportionally affected multiple-target search accuracy. These results suggest that the detection and processing of a first target might enhance the masking effects of clutter around a second target.
Adamo, SH; Cain, MS; Mitroff, SR
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