Send to:

Choose Destination
See comment in PubMed Commons below
J Exp Psychol Hum Percept Perform. 2013 Oct;39(5):1421-32. doi: 10.1037/a0031353. Epub 2013 Jan 21.

Off to a bad start: uncertainty about the number of targets at the onset of multiple object tracking.

Author information

  • 1Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, Johns Hopkins University.


Visual tracking abilities are limited to only a few objects at a time. When do errors arise? We hypothesized that some errors arise prior to tracking; specifically, during the first moments of a trial because of an inability to correctly perceive the number of targets in a display. To test this hypothesis, we modified a basic multiple object tracking (MOT) task in two ways: (1) we distilled the first moments of MOT into a static working memory task, requiring participants to remember and then identify targets among nontargets in displays without motion; (2) we unconstrained the number of responses a participant could make, asking them to terminate each trial when they felt that they had made an adequate number of responses. In Experiment 1, participants made the wrong number of responses in a considerable number of trials, and they tendered the wrong number of responses more frequently with larger loads. Comparisons across different delay durations demonstrated that these results were not caused by temporal decay. Follow-up experiments produced similar results when participants stated the cardinal number of targets perceived in a static trial (Experiment 2), and when they reported whether or not a test display included the same number of targets as a memory display (Experiment 3). Finally, with a typical tracking duration, participants also produced the wrong number of responses frequently (Experiment 4). Thus, some of the difficulty associated with MOT originates from uncertainty about the number of targets at the start of an episode.

PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2013 APA, all rights reserved.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PubMed Commons home

PubMed Commons

How to join PubMed Commons

    Supplemental Content

    Full text links

    Icon for American Psychological Association
    Loading ...
    Write to the Help Desk