Gaining a better understanding of visual attention and cognition

Problem Title

Gaining a better understanding of visual attention and cognition

Scientific Title

Multitarget Visual Search Task II

Student: 
Jessica Capri
Major(s): 
Biology
Major in Individual Concentration (Neurobiology)
iCons Concentration: 
Biomedicine/Biosystems
iCons Class Year: 
Class of 2015
Executive Summary 

Imagine entering an airport filled with distractions such as noise and people rushing to catch their flights. Now imagine working as part of security where your job is to search for threats. Do you think these many distractions will impact your search? Why is it that we tend to get distracted or allocate our attention to an object other than our target?

Our current experiment incorporates visual working memory to test if thinking about an item other than what one is searching for plays a role in how efficiently they search. Working memory allows for multiple pieces of information to be actively held in memory at the same time. Visual working memory stores information retrieved from the visual input. One might expect that there is a direct link between visual working memory and attention because of the use of top down control when completing a search task. If one role for visual working memory is to hold the target representation that guides search, then when there is another item in working memory separate from the item actively being searched for, there might be interference between the two items which hinders the allocation of attention.

Based on what we have seen in previous experiments we expect to find that shape variation most likely will not create a larger working memory cost. This will help us understand that items held in working memory interfere with the information about items being searched for and potentially develop new methods to enhance search.

Problem Keywords: 
cognition
memory
Scientific Keywords: 
neurobiology
search task
visual working memory