Perceptuomotor incoordination during manually-assisted search
Solman, Grayden J. F.
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The thesis introduces a novel search paradigm, and explores a previously unreported behavioural error detectable in this paradigm. In particular, the ‘Unpacking Task’ is introduced – a search task in which participants use a computer mouse to sort through random heaps of items in order to locate a unique target. The task differs from traditional search paradigms by including an active motor component in addition to purely perceptual inspection. While completing this task, participants are often found to select and move the unique target item without recognizing it, at times continuing to make many additional moves before correcting the error. This ‘unpacking error’ is explored with perceptual, memory load, and instructional manipulations, evaluating eye-movements and motor characteristics in additional to traditional response time and error rate metrics. It is concluded that the unpacking error arises because perceptual and motor systems fail to adequately coordinate during completion of the task. In particular, the motor system is found to ‘process’ items (i.e., to select and discard them) more quickly than the perceptual system is able to reliably identify those same items. On those occasions where the motor system selects and rejects the target item before the perceptual system has had time to resolve its identity, the unpacking error results. These findings have important implications for naturalistic search, where motor interaction is common, and provide further insights into the conditions under which perceptual and motor systems will interact in a coordinated or an uncoordinated fashion.