False Feedback Increases Detection of Low-Prevalence Targets in Visual Search

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Many critical search tasks, such as airport and medical screening, involve searching for targets that are rarely present. These low-prevalence targets are associated with extremely high miss rates Wolfe, Horowitz, & Kenner (Nature, 435, 439-440, 2005). The inflated miss rates are caused by a criterion shift, likely due to observers attempting to equate the numbers of misses and false alarms. This equalizing strategy results in a neutral criterion at 50 % target prevalence, but leads to a higher proportion of misses for low-prevalence targets. In the present study, we manipulated participants' perceived number of misses through explicit false feedback. As predicted, the participants in the false-feedback condition committed a higher number of false alarms due to a shifted criterion. Importantly, the participants in this condition were also more successful in detecting targets. These results highlight the importance of perceived prevalence in target search tasks.



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