Search for a distressed swimmer in a dynamic, real-world environment

Laxton, V. ORCID: 0000-0001-5590-4398, Guest, D. ORCID: 0000-0003-4514-9186, Howard, C.J. ORCID: 0000-0002-8755-1109 and Crundall, D. ORCID: 0000-0002-6030-3631, 2021. Search for a distressed swimmer in a dynamic, real-world environment. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied.

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Visual search is increasingly being explored in dynamic, real-world environments. This includes swimming pools, where lifeguards have shown superior drowning detection in simulated environments. Here we explored if lifeguard superiority is observed in real-life scenes of a busy swimming pool. Experiment 1 required participants to identify real-life distressed swimmers in clips of busy pool activity via a touchscreen interface. Experiment 2 sought to replicate the first study, with the inclusion of eye-movement measures. Experiment 3 varied the methodology, using an occlusion method where clips were frozen and blurred shortly after target onset. The results demonstrated an experience effect, with lifeguards detecting distressed swimmers more often and faster than non-lifeguards. No clear differences were found in the eye-movements between groups; thus, we cannot conclude that the lifeguards’ faster responses are due to better scanning strategies. The different methodological approaches revealed the occlusion method to have the larger effect size, supporting the growing evidence that occlusion may be a better test for dynamic target detection than traditional response-time tests. This research demonstrates that the clear lifeguard experience effect generalises to real-life pool environments with a large number of swimmers and real incidents. It could be used to inform lifeguard training tools and assessments.

Item Type: Journal article
Publication Title: Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied
Creators: Laxton, V., Guest, D., Howard, C.J. and Crundall, D.
Publisher: American Psychological Association
Date: 22 March 2021
Divisions: Schools > School of Social Sciences
Record created by: Linda Sullivan
Date Added: 20 Nov 2020 16:18
Last Modified: 31 May 2021 15:03

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