This CREST guide looks at some of the differences between peoples' ability to search and find targets.

There are a number of factors which can affect peoples' ability to search and detect targets. These can be cognitive abilities like perception and working memory, and functional factors like how much someone can see without moving their eyes can also play a role.

The key points covered in this guide are:

  • Successful search requires perception, memory, attention, and decision-making skills. All of these vary among people.
  • All of these abilities can be trained.
  • It is not clear whether or not training on the basic ability transfers to complex tasks easily.
  • Women on average have less spatial ability than men. This seems to be a difference that can sometimes be overcome by training, depending on what spatial task is being considered.
  • Older adults on average have slower processing speeds, poorer visual acuity, smaller functional fields of view, and smaller working memory capacity. Training improves these skills, but trained younger adults will still perform better.
  • People from collectivist cultures (including many Asian countries) are more influenced by contextual information than people from individualist cultures (e.g. Western Europe).