Abstract

There is a lack of consensus in measuring observer performance in search tasks. To pursue a consensus, we set our goal to obtain metrics that are practical, meaningful, and predictive. We consider a metric practical if it can be implemented to measure human and computer observers’ performance. To be meaningful, we propose to discover intrinsic properties of search observers and formulate the metrics to characterize these properties. If the discovered properties allow verifiable predictions, we consider them predictive. We propose a theory and a conjecture toward two intrinsic properties of search observers: rationality in classification as measured by the location-known-exactly (LKE) receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curve and location uncertainty as measured by the effective set size (M*). These two properties are used to develop search models in both single-response and free-response search tasks. To confirm whether these properties are “intrinsic,” we investigate their ability in predicting search performance of both human and scanning channelized Hotelling observers. In particular, for each observer, we designed experiments to measure the LKE–ROC curve and M*, which were then used to predict the same observer’s performance in other search tasks. The predictions were then compared to the experimentally measured observer performance. Our results indicate that modeling the search performance using the LKE–ROC curve and M* leads to successful predictions in most cases.

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