Visual Information Processing From Multiple Displays

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  • OBJECTIVE: In this study, we examined how effectively people can monitor new stimuli on a peripheral display while carrying out judgments on an adjacent central display. BACKGROUND: Improved situation awareness is critical for improved operator performance in aviation and many other domains. Given the limited extent of foveal processing, acquiring additional information from peripheral vision offers high potential gains. METHOD: Participants carried out a sequence of central perceptual judgments while simultaneously monitoring the periphery for new stimuli. Peripheral detection was measured as a function of central-judgment difficulty, the relative timing of the two tasks, and peripheral event rate. RESULTS: Participants accurately detected and located peripheral targets, even at the highest eccentricity explored here (~30°). Peripheral detection was not reduced by increased central-task difficulty but was reduced when peripheral targets arrived later in the processing of central stimuli and when peripheral events were relatively rare. CONCLUSION: Under favorable conditions—high-contrast stimuli and high event rate—people can successfully monitor peripheral displays for new events while carrying out an unrelated continuous task on an adjacent display. APPLICATION: In many fields, such as aviation, existing displays were designed with low-contrast stimuli that provide little opportunity for peripheral vision. With appropriate redesign, operators might successfully monitor multiple displays over a large visual field. Designers need to be aware of nonvisual factors, such as low event rate and relative event timing, that can lead to failures to detect peripheral stimuli.
  • Keywords: aviation, peripheral detection, situation awareness, attention, vigilance, monitoring, dual task
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  • Johnston, J. C., Ruthruff, E., & Lien, M. C. (2015). Visual Information Processing From Multiple Displays. Human Factors, 57(2), 276-297. doi:10.1177/0018720814545974
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  • 57
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  • 2
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  • This research was supported by the NASA Aviation Safety program.
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