Visual search as effortful work. Academic Article uri icon


  • Tasks that involve more demanding cognitive operations, such as working memory maintenance and rule switching, tend to be perceived as effortful. People will make choices that minimize the need to perform such tasks and will even accept some measure of physical pain in exchange for the ability to avoid them. Nearly all tasks require that people find and extract relevant perceptual information from their environment, but demands of this nature are often ignored in the study of mental effort. Visual search is sometimes described as "difficult" or "easy" on the basis of search slopes or other performance-based metrics, but how such performance differences map onto conceptions of cognitive demand is unclear. In the present study, we examined whether people would be willing to exert physical effort in exchange for the opportunity to minimize the number of items they needed to search through in a visual search task and whether they would be more willing to endure physical effort demands if it resulted in fewer items needing to be searched. Our results are broadly consistent with the idea that the performance of visual search constitutes effortful work that can trade-off with physical effort demands, which has broad implications for theories of visual information processing and practical considerations for professions that tax peoples' ability to search. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2023 APA, all rights reserved).

published proceedings

  • J Exp Psychol Gen

altmetric score

  • 0.5

author list (cited authors)

  • Anderson, B. A., & Lee, D. S.

citation count

  • 1

complete list of authors

  • Anderson, Brian A||Lee, David S

publication date

  • June 2023