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Vision and multitasking

12
Feb
2014

Vision and multitasking

When it comes to multitasking, you may think that doubling up jobs can lead to mistakes, inaccuracies, slowness and poor performance. New studies have shown that when it come to vision, this is not the case. Visual Sampling is the act of picking up information in lots of small glances, and the brain can handle this and various visual functions simultaneously.

The Fovea is a tiny depression, about 3 mm insize at the back of the eye in the centre of the macula region. It is responsible for sharp central vision which is necessary for tasks such as driving, reading and any other activity where detail is of primary importance. the Fovea is the only area of the eye where 20/20 vision can be achieved and where colours are at their most brilliant.

When something catches your attention, you automatically swing your head towards it, effectively lining the object up with your fovea, allowing for closer, more detailed inspection. Whatever falls outside the range of the fovea will appear slightly blurry and less distinct, this will be your peripheral vision. When you are searching for something, you do not have to closely examine every object in a group. This is because your brain is scanning and evaluating where to direct your gaze next using your peripheral vision, without you being aware that the process is happening. For example, if you were searching for a friend in a crowd, and you knew that friend was wearing a red jumper, your brain will do two things. Firstly, it will analyze the person you are currently looking at, while at the same time it will be scanning the crowd, picking out the red colour using your peripheral vision. It will have decided what you are going to focus on next before you have even finished analyzing the first object!

Researchers discovered that both tasks can be performed accurately and rapidly, at the same time and independently. Usually when the brain multitasks, there is competition between the two processes, and one is given priority. With vision, neither process is interrupted or slowed down, indicating that both processes work at the same time and independently of each other. This is a very specialised ability, and could have evolved due to the sheer quantity of sampling that humans do every day, about 10,000 movements!

By: Hannah Howard

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