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Perception and human information processing in visual search

Cain, Matthew S.; Clark, Kait; Cain, Matthew; Mitroff, Stephen R.

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Matthew S. Cain

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

Matthew Cain

Stephen R. Mitroff


Robert R. Hoffman

Peter A. Hancock

Mark W. Scerbo

Raja Parasuraman

James L. Szalma


© Cambridge University Press 2015. Visual search is the process of finding specific target items within an environment using particular visual features or prior knowledge. Searches can be as easy as finding your friend with purple hair in a lecture hall or as complicated as finding a purposefully concealed weapon among thousands of harmless bags at an airport checkpoint. Visual searches take place in everyday, innocuous contexts such as finding your car in a parking lot, and in critical contexts, such as finding enemy combatants in an urban battlefield. We conduct searches all the time, and most searches are relatively commonplace. However, in some cases, visual searches can be critically important. For example, airport security screeners must identify harmful items in baggage, and radiologists must identify abnormalities in medical radiographs. Despite the ubiquitous nature of search and the fact that it is sometimes life-or-death critical, human visual search is far from ideal - errors are often made, and searches are typically conducted for either too little or too much time. Thus, some fundamental research questions are the following: How can we maximize search efficiency? What is the best way to increase both search speed and accuracy? Much academic research has focused on increasing search performance, but does such research adequately translate to situations outside the laboratory environment? These open questions are the foundation of research in applied visual search - the application of what has been learned about search accuracy and efficiency from lab-based experimentation to search conditions in the workplace for career searchers, with the goal of increasing performance.


Cain, M. S., Clark, K., Cain, M., & Mitroff, S. R. (2015). Perception and human information processing in visual search. In R. R. Hoffman, P. A. Hancock, M. W. Scerbo, R. Parasuraman, & J. L. Szalma (Eds.), The Cambridge Handbook of Applied Perception Research (199-217). Cambridge University Press.

Publication Date Jan 1, 2015
Deposit Date Aug 2, 2017
Publicly Available Date Aug 3, 2017
Peer Reviewed Not Peer Reviewed
Pages 199-217
Book Title The Cambridge Handbook of Applied Perception Research
Keywords perception, human information processing, visual search
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Additional Information Additional Information : This material has been published in The Cambridge Handbook of Applied Perception Research, edited by Robert Hoffman, Peter Hancock, Mark Scerbo, Raja Parasuraman, and James Szalma . This version is free to view and download for personal use only. Not for re-distribution, re-sale or use in derivative works. © Cambridge University Press.


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