Haptic search with finger movements: using more fingers does not necessarily reduce search times
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Two haptic serial search tasks were used to investigate how the separations between items, and the number of fingers used to scan them, influence the search time and search strategy. In both tasks participants had to search for a target (cross) between a fixed number of non-targets (circles). The items were placed in a straight line. The target’s position was varied within blocks, and inter-item separation was varied between blocks. In the first experiment participants used their index finger to scan the display. As expected, search time depended on target position as well as on item separation. For larger separations participants’ movements were jerky, resembling ‘saccades’ and ‘fixations’, while for the shortest separation the movements were smooth. When only considering time in contact with an item, search times were the same for all separation conditions. Furthermore, participants never continued their movement after they encountered the target. These results suggest that participants did not use the time during which they were moving between the items to process information about the items. The search times were a little shorter than those in a static search experiment (Overvliet et al. in Percept Psychophys, 2007a), where multiple items were presented to the fingertips simultaneously. To investigate whether this is because the finger was moving or because only one finger was stimulated, we conducted a second experiment in which we asked participants to put three fingers in line and use them together to scan the items. Doing so increased the time in contact with the items for all separations, so search times were presumably longer in the static search experiment because multiple fingers were involved. This may be caused by the time that it takes to switch from one finger to the other.