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Effects of speed-accuracy instructions on oculomotor scanning and target recognition in a simulated baggage X-ray screening task

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Visual search tasks are often carried out under high levels of time stress. Transportation security screeners, for example, face demands to achieve high levels of accuracy while maintaining rapid passenger throughput. An experiment examined the strategies by which operators regulate visual search performance under such conditions. Observers performed a simulated baggage-screening task under instructions to emphasise either response speed or accuracy. Behavioural measures and eye movements were recorded. Observers made fewer and briefer fixations under emphasise-speed than under emphasise-accuracy instructions. Losses in accuracy were produced by more frequent failures to fixate on targets and a decrease in the detection rate of non-fixated targets. The likelihood with which observers detected a fixated target was similar across speed-accuracy instructions. Results will inform efforts to model visual search in naturalistic tasks, allowing more accurate prediction of response times and error rate and may aid the design of training programmes and other interventions to improve search performance under stress.
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Keywords: attention; eye movements; time stress; visual search

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Aviation Human Factors Division, University Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Institute of Aviation, Savoy, IL, USA

Publication date: March 1, 2009

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