Hybrid foraging search: Searching for multiple instances of multiple types of target

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Abstract

This paper introduces the “hybrid foraging” paradigm. In typical visual search tasks, observers search for one instance of one target among distractors. In hybrid search, observers search through visual displays for one instance of any of several types of target held in memory. In foraging search, observers collect multiple instances of a single target type from visual displays. Combining these paradigms, in hybrid foraging tasks observers search visual displays for multiple instances of any of several types of target (as might be the case in searching the kitchen for dinner ingredients or an X-ray for different pathologies). In the present experiment, observers held 8–64 target objects in memory. They viewed displays of 60–105 randomly moving photographs of objects and used the computer mouse to collect multiple targets before choosing to move to the next display. Rather than selecting at random among available targets, observers tended to collect items in runs of one target type. Reaction time (RT) data indicate searching again for the same item is more efficient than searching for any other targets, held in memory. Observers were trying to maximize collection rate. As a result, and consistent with optimal foraging theory, they tended to leave 25–33% of targets uncollected when moving to the next screen/patch. The pattern of RTs shows that while observers were collecting a target item, they had already begun searching memory and the visual display for additional targets, making the hybrid foraging task a useful way to investigate the interaction of visual and memory search.

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