A Methodology for Studying Cognitive Groupings in a Target-Tracking Task

Steven J. Landry, Thomas B. Sheridan, Yan M. Yufik

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


Subjects performing visual target-tracking tasks have been shown to utilize perceptual organization. This organization has both Gestalt and goal-oriented features. Previous studies have attempted to use memory recall techniques to examine potential cognitive groupings in air traffic control (ATC), which is, in part, a complex target-tracking task. In the present research, a special form of cluster analysis was successful in revealing cognitive groupings having appreciable influence on task performance in a target-tracking task designed to resemble ATC. The method of cluster analysis was derived from the "virtual associative network" model of memory organization and applied to the record of eye fixations in the course of task performance. Results using inexperienced subjects showed fixation clustering consistent with Gestalt factors. Task objectives (such as conflict detection) did not seem to affect grouping as much. The subjects' recall was generally poor, except where direct manipulation of targets occurred. We conclude that: 1) cognitive grouping influences performance; 2) recall techniques may not be able to elicit subjects' cognitive groupings; and 3) such groupings can be determined via analysis of eye fixations. These findings have implications for studying workload assessment and information structuring in complex visual scanning tasks.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)92-100
Number of pages9
JournalIEEE Transactions on Intelligent Transportation Systems
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2001

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Automotive Engineering
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Computer Science Applications


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