A researcher at Rutgers University--Camden has done just that, and offers insight on how to cut through the visual clutter to more effectively identify distinct items, such as hidden weapons.
"Weapons can come in any form," says Mary Bravo, an assistant professor of psychology at Rutgers University-Camden. "Baggage checkers don't know exactly what they're looking for."
Funded by the National Science Foundation and published in the journals Perception and Vision Research, Bravo's research seeks to clarify how people see, interpret, and identify objects.
While many previous vision studies considered how people recognize objects in such unlikely simple settings as one object on a plain background, Bravo's work acknowledges that real life is rarely uncluttered. For example, very few people would pack a gun in an empty suitcase. So the Rutgers-Camden researcher opted to test how human vision finds objects set in clutter.
In one study, Bravo asked participants to find food amidst a clutter of objects. No specific type of food was identified, increasing the difficulty of the search.
The food was sought in two settings: Each had the same number of objects, yet the objects in one setting were arranged more densely than the other. Bravo found that the density of the arrangement didn't affect the search if the objects were simple, such as a comb or sock. If the objects were more complex, such as a set of keys, then increasing the density of the arrangement increased the difficulty of the search task.
"When the objects were presented in a sparse array, search times to find the target were similar for displays composed of simple and complex objects. But when the same objects were presented as dense clutter, search func
Contact: Mike Sepanic
Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey