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Context matters: The structure of task goals affects accuracy in multiple-target visual search

Clark, Kait; Cain, Matthew; Adcock, R. Alison; Mitroff, Stephen R.


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Dr Kait Clark
Senior Lecturer in Psychology (Cognitive and Neuro)

Matthew Cain

R. Alison Adcock

Stephen R. Mitroff


Career visual searchers such as radiologists and airport security screeners strive to conduct accurate visual searches, but despite extensive training, errors still occur. A key difference between searches in radiology and airport security is the structure of the search task: Radiologists typically scan a certain number of medical images (fixed objective), and airport security screeners typically search X-rays for a specified time period (fixed duration). Might these structural differences affect accuracy? We compared performance on a search task administered either under constraints that approximated radiology or airport security. Some displays contained more than one target because the presence of multiple targets is an established source of errors for career searchers, and accuracy for additional targets tends to be especially sensitive to contextual conditions. Results indicate that participants searching within the fixed objective framework produced more multiple-target search errors; thus, adopting a fixed duration framework could improve accuracy for career searchers. © 2013 Elsevier Ltd and The Ergonomics Society.


Clark, K., Cain, M., Adcock, R. A., & Mitroff, S. R. (2014). Context matters: The structure of task goals affects accuracy in multiple-target visual search. Applied Ergonomics, 45(3), 528-533.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jul 20, 2013
Online Publication Date Aug 16, 2013
Publication Date Jan 1, 2014
Deposit Date Aug 2, 2017
Journal Applied Ergonomics
Print ISSN 0003-6870
Electronic ISSN 1872-9126
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 45
Issue 3
Pages 528-533
Keywords visual search, radiology, airport security screening
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