Saturday, February 04, 2012

Seeing without recognition.

A paper in Cognition describes a series of experiments where participants had to search through a heap of overlapping items. To locate the target, they had to 'unpack' the heap by moving objects aside. It turns out, a purely mechanical task of moving things aside interferes with the process of recognition, as if the motor system dictates the pace of mental work to the rest of the brain.
We report that during this task participants often fail to recognize the target despite moving it, and despite having looked at the item. The rate of this ‘unpacking error’ was minimally affected by set size and dual task manipulations, but was strongly influenced by perceptual difficulty and perceptual load. We suggest that the error occurs because of a dissociation between perception for action and perception for identification, providing further evidence that these processes may operate relatively independently even in naturalistic contexts, and even in settings like search where they should be expected to act in close coordination.
Grayden J.F. Solman, et. al. 2011. Found and missed: Failing to recognize a search target despite moving it.
From a practical perspective, having large working surfaces, e.g. desks or screens, can improve recognition (or intuitive judgement) because there's no need to move things around in order to find what you are looking for. (The Whiteboard Effect?) In clutter situations machine-based search should be more effective than human-based one.

tags: detection, psychology, brain, information, control

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