Open Exhibits - Research - Papers



Exploring the Effects of Group Size and Display Configuration on Visual Search


Visual search is the subject of countless psychology studies in which people search for target items within a scene. The bulk of this literature focuses on the individual with the goal of understanding the human perceptual system. In life, visual search is performed not only by individuals, but also by groups – a  team of doctors may study an x-ray and a team of analysts may study a satellite photograph. In this paper, we examine the issues one should consider when searching as a group. We present the details of an experiment designed to investigate the impact of group size on visual search performance, and how different display configurations affected that performance. We asked individuals,  pairs, and groups of four people to participate in a baggage screening task in which these teams searched simulated x-rays for prohibited items. Teams conducted these searches on single monitors, a row of four monitors, and on a single horizontal display. Our findings suggest that groups commit far fewer errors in visual search tasks, although they may perform slower than individuals under certain conditions  The interaction between group size and display configuration turned out to be an important factor as well.