Looking for trouble: a description of oculomotor search strategies during live CCTV operation

Matthew J. Stainer, Kenneth C. Scott-Brown, Benjamin W. Tatler

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    21 Citations (Scopus)


    Recent research has begun to address how CCTV operators in the modern control room attempt to search for crime (e.g., Howard et al., 2011). However, an often-neglected element of the CCTV task is that the operators have at their disposal a multiplexed wall of scenes, and a single spot-monitor on which they can select any of these feeds for inspection. Here we examined how 2 trained CCTV operators used these sources of information to search from crime during a morning, afternoon, and night-time shift. We found that they spent surprisingly little time viewing the multiplex wall, instead preferentially spending most of their time searching on the single-scene spot-monitor. Such search must require a sophisticated understanding of the surveilled environment, as the operators must make their selection of which screen to view based on their prediction of where crime is likely to occur. This seems to be reflected in the difference in the screens that they selected to view at different times of the day. For example, night-clubs received close monitoring at night, but were seldom viewed in mid-morning. Such narrowing of search based on a contextual understanding of an environment is not a new idea (e.g., Torralba et al., 2006), and appears to contribute to operator's selection strategy. This research prompts new questions regarding the nature of representation that operators have of their environment, and how they might develop expectation-based search strategies to countermand the demands of the large inffux of visual information. Future research should ensure not to neglect examination of operator behavior "in the wild" (Hutchins, 1995a), as such insights are difficult to gain from laboratory based paradigms alone.
    Original languageEnglish
    Article number615
    Number of pages9
    JournalFrontiers in Human Neuroscience
    Publication statusPublished - 30 Sept 2013


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