A bayesian optimal foraging model of human visual search.

Journal Article

Real-world visual searches often contain a variable and unknown number of targets. Such searches present difficult metacognitive challenges, as searchers must decide when to stop looking for additional targets, which results in high miss rates in multiple-target searches. In the study reported here, we quantified human strategies in multiple-target search via an ecological optimal foraging model and investigated whether searchers adapt their strategies to complex target-distribution statistics. Separate groups of individuals searched displays with the number of targets per trial sampled from different geometric distributions but with the same overall target prevalence. As predicted by optimal foraging theory, results showed that individuals searched longer when they expected more targets to be present and adjusted their expectations on-line during each search by taking into account the higher-order, across-trial target distributions. However, compared with modeled ideal observers, participants systematically responded as if the target distribution were more uniform than it was, which suggests that training could improve multiple-target search performance.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Cain, MS; Vul, E; Clark, K; Mitroff, SR

Published Date

  • September 1, 2012

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 23 / 9

Start / End Page

  • 1047 - 1054

PubMed ID

  • 22868494

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1467-9280

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1177/0956797612440460


  • eng

Conference Location

  • United States