Hand proximity effects are fragile: a useful null result

Ronald Andringa, Walter R. Boot, Nelson A. Roque, Sadhana Ponnaluri

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Placing one’s hands near an object has been reported to enhance visual processing in a number of ways. We explored whether hand proximity confers an advantage when applied to complex visual search. In one experiment, participants indicated the presence or absence of a target item in a baggage x-ray image by pressing response boxes located at the edge of a tablet computer screen, requiring them to grip the display between their hands. Alternatively, they responded using a mouse held within their lap. Contrary to expectations, hand position did not influence search performance. In a second experiment, participants used their finger to trace along the x-ray image while searching. In addition to any effect of hand proximity it was predicted that this strategy would encourage a more systematic search strategy. Participants inspected bags longer using this strategy, but this did not translate into improved target detection. A third experiment attempted to replicate the near-hands advantage in a change detection paradigm featuring simple stimuli (Tseng and Bridgeman, Experimental Brain Research 209:257–269, 2011), and the same equipment and hand positions as Experiment 1, but was unable to do so. One possibility is that the grip posture associated with holding a tablet is not conducive to producing a near-hands advantage. A final experiment tested this hypothesis with a direct replication of Tseng and Bridgeman, in which participants responded to stimuli presented on a CRT monitor using keys attached to the side of the monitor. Still, no near-hands advantage was observed. Our results suggest that the near-hands advantage may be sensitive to small differences in procedure, a finding that has important implications for harnessing the near-hands advantage to produce better performance in applied contexts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number7
JournalCognitive Research: Principles and Implications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience

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