Searching in dynamic displays:
Effects of configural predictability and spatiotemporal continuity

Alvarez, Konkle, & Oliva

A visual search task was used to probe how well attention can operate over a dynamically changing visual display. Participants searched for a target item among an array of distractor items while the items either shifted location several times per second or remained stationary. Not surprisingly, Experiment 1 showed that shifting display items slowed search. However, search was faster if the shift preserved the global, configural structure of the display. The results of Experiment 2 suggest that the benefit of maintaining configural structure comes from improved spatial predictability: Knowing where the searchable items will be at any given moment enables faster search. Finally, Experiment 3 shows that, given spatiotemporal continuity, attention can operate just as efficiently over a dynamically changing display as it can over a stationary display. In the real world, objects often move, but they do so in a predictable way. The current findings suggest that the mechanisms underlying search can capitalize on configural predictability and spatiotemporal continuity to enable efficient search in such dynamic situations.

Alvarez, G. A., Konkle, T., & Oliva, A. (2007). Searching in Dynamic Displays: Effects of configural predictability and spatio-temporal continuity. Journal of Vision. 7(14):12, 1-12.