Skip to main content

Research Repository

Advanced Search

Who should be searching? Differences in personality can affect visual search accuracy

Biggs, Adam T.; Clark, Kait; Mitroff, Stephen R.


Adam T. Biggs

Profile Image

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

Stephen R. Mitroff


© 2017 Visual search is an everyday task conducted in a wide variety of contexts. Some searches are mundane, such as finding a beverage in the refrigerator, and some have life-or-death consequences, such as finding improvised explosives at a security checkpoint or within a combat zone. Prior work has shown numerous influences on search, including “bottom-up” (physical stimulus attributes) and “top-down” factors (task-relevant or goal-driven aspects). Recent work has begun to focus on “observer-specific” factors, examining how searchers' attributes might influence search performance. A logical extension involves exploring whether some individuals are better suited to conduct visual searches than other individuals. The current study examined whether certain personality characteristics relate to visual search performance in a large sample of professional searchers employed by the U.S. Transportation Security Administration. Of the “big five” personality traits (neuroticism, extroversion, openness, agreeableness, and conscientiousness), only conscientiousness significantly correlated with visual search accuracy. Both early-career and experienced professional searchers demonstrated a significant relationship between conscientiousness scores and accuracy on a simple visual search task. These findings validate the notion that searchers' attributes impact their visual search performance and suggest that personality assessments might prove useful for hiring and selection decisions regarding professional tasks that incorporate visual search.


Biggs, A. T., Clark, K., & Mitroff, S. R. (2017). Who should be searching? Differences in personality can affect visual search accuracy. Personality and Individual Differences, 116, 353-358.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Apr 22, 2017
Online Publication Date May 15, 2017
Publication Date Oct 1, 2017
Deposit Date Aug 2, 2017
Journal Personality and Individual Differences
Print ISSN 0191-8869
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 116
Pages 353-358
Keywords visual search, visual attention, professional search, personality hiring and selection
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information Additional Information : This is the author's accepted manuscript. The final published version is available here:


You might also like

Downloadable Citations