Anticipatory anxiety hinders detection of a second target in dual-target search.
Professional visual searches (e.g., baggage screenings, military searches, radiological examinations) are often conducted in high-pressure environments and require focus on multiple visual targets. Yet laboratory studies of visual search tend to be conducted in emotionally neutral settings with only one possible target per display. In the experiment reported here, we looked to better emulate high-pressure search conditions by presenting searchers with arrays that contained between zero and two targets while inducing anticipatory anxiety via a threat-of-shock paradigm. Under conditions of anticipatory anxiety, dual-target performance was negatively affected, but single-target performance and time on task were unaffected. These results suggest that multiple-target searches may be a more sensitive instrument to measure the effect of environmental factors on visual cognition than single-target searches are. Further, the effect of anticipatory anxiety was modulated by individual differences in state anxiety levels of participants prior to the experiment. These results have implications for both the laboratory study of visual search and the management and assessment of professional searchers.
Cain, MS; Dunsmoor, JE; LaBar, KS; Mitroff, SR
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