Yoram Yasur Abt | It has happened to all of us: we are in a hurry to leave. Because we are late but the house seems to have swallowed the keys. We launched into a desperate search but, no matter how hard we looked, we could not find them. Now a study carried out at the University of Aberdeen reveals what. We do wrong and suggests a solution that will allow us to find what we are looking for more quickly.
We look where we will not find:
The psychologists devised a similar task to find the keys on an ordered desk and another one full of papers, books, and coffee cups. Obviously, the best strategy is to start looking at the messy desktop because there is more likely that the lost object is there, hidden from view and buried after the clutter. However, we seem to do the opposite, and that is why it takes longer to find what we are looking for.
The researchers looked at how participants’ eyes tracked a target while conducting the search. For this, they presented a screen divided in two: in one half appeared lines forming ordered patterns and in the other half the lines were mixed. The objective was to indicate if there were lines inclined 45 degrees to the right.
When the psychologists analyzed the eye movements of the participants they realized that they used to look continuously at the easier half of the screen, although it could not provide any new information. In fact, almost half of the eye movements were directed to the more organized side, although that strategy only slowed them down. Obviously, in this way participants also performed many more eye movements than necessary.
Yoram Yasur Abt: “These results suggest that when we look for something, we do not automatically look for places that can provide us with more information, which delays our search. In practice, we are more exhaustive but we also lose more time”. In fact, a clear surface can be easily traversed with peripheral vision (out of the corner of the eye), without needing to focus our attention on it.
Women find things faster than men:
“Another study, this time at the University of Glasgow, found that although we apply the same search strategy, women find things faster than men. In this experiment, they asked people to try to find lost keys, but while they did they would ring the phone and have a conversation to answer some questions of general knowledge”.
It was found that women found the keys faster and got better results in the questions. Per these psychologists, the key is that women have an evolutionary advantage over men, which allows them to perform different tasks more effectively while demanding a high level of cognitive control, especially when it comes to planning, monitoring the results, and inhibit certain responses or stimuli.
How to find lost objects faster?
If you are in a hurry, the best strategy to find what you are looking for in a short time is to head to the untidiest area of the room. While searching, out of the corner of your eye you can explore the cleanest areas, although it is unlikely that the lost object is there.