Visual search tasks have often been used to investigate how cognitive processes change with expertise. Several studies have shown visual experts' advantages in detecting objects related to their expertise. Here, we tried to extend these findings by investigating whether professional search experience could boost top-down monitoring processes involved in visual search, independently of advantages specific to objects of expertise. To this aim, we recruited a group of quality-control workers employed in citrus farms. Given the specific features of this type of job, we expected that the extensive employment of monitoring mechanisms during orange selection could enhance these mechanisms even in search situations in which orange-related expertise is not suitable. To test this hypothesis, we compared performance of our experimental group and of a well-matched control group on a computerized visual search task. In one block the target was an orange (expertise target) while in the other block the target was a Smurfette doll (neutral target). The a priori hypothesis was to find an advantage for quality-controllers in those situations in which monitoring was especially involved, that is, when deciding the presence/absence of the target required a more extensive inspection of the search array. Results were consistent with our hypothesis. Quality-controllers were faster in those conditions that extensively required monitoring processes, specifically, the Smurfette-present and both target-absent conditions. No differences emerged in the orange-present condition, which resulted to mainly rely on bottom-up processes. These results suggest that top-down processes in visual search can be enhanced through immersive real-life experience beyond visual expertise advantages.
- Cognitive control
- Professional training
- Real-world cognitive enhancement
- Visual search
ASJC Scopus subject areas