Search organisation

We’ve all been there: You put your keys down somewhere for just a second, turn around, and suddenly they’re gone. You suddenly have no clue where they’ve gone, and find yourself looking around the area that you thought you put them in. Do you meticulously scan the area, do you look at places you’ve previously used as temporary key-holder, or do you just randomly gaze about? This is search organisation!

In the lab, we often investigate this using a multi-target visual search task. This task has targets that you need to click, embedded among distractors that you need to ignore. The goal is to find and click all targets.

It turns out that people have very different ways of approaching this task: Some search in a zig-zag pattern, others start on the outside and gradually circle inwards, and there are many who seem to randomly click. We try to figure out why people adopt different strategies, and what the benefits and downsides are.

Search organisation can be affected after stroke, and other neurological issues. We devise tests to better investigate this phenomenon, and use these to assess whether pharmacological interventions work.

Relevant publications

The following are papers that relate to search organisation. You can find a full list of our peer-reviewed work on our publications page.

  • Benjamins*, J.S., Dalmaijer*, E.S., Ten Brink, A.F., Nijboer, T.C.W., & Van der Stigchel, S. (2019). Multi-target visual search organisation across the lifespan: Cancellation task performance in a large and demographically stratified sample of healthy adults. Aging, Neuropsychology and Cognition, 26(5), p. 731-748. doi:10.1080/13825585.2018.1521508

    Pre-print available via bioRxiv, 307520. doi:10.1101/307520

  • Dalmaijer*, E.S., Li*, K.M.S., Gorgoraptis, N., Leff, A.P., Cohen, D.L., Parton, A.D., Husain, M., & Malhotra, P.A. (2018). Randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled crossover study of single-dose guanfacine in unilateral neglect following stroke. Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry, 89(6), p. 593-598. doi:10.1136/jnnp-2017-317338
  • Dalmaijer, E.S., Van der Stigchel, S, Nijboer, T.C., Cornelissen, T.H., & Husain, M. (2015). CancellationTools: All-in-one software for administration and analysis of cancellation tasks. Behavior Research Methods, 47(4), p. 1065-1075. doi:10.3758/s13428-014-0522-7 [PDF]

Blog posts on our work

Because scientific articles are a bit dense, we try to write more easily digestible summaries on our blog. Please find a sampling below:

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