Hiding & Finding

Much of what we know about visual search comes from situations where all the information is visible, and it is a matter of finding the target among the distractors, as with Where’s Wally/Waldo. But sometimes the thing we are looking for is hidden from view – that may be the keys we lost yesterday, a firefighter looking for people in a smoke-filled building, or our friends in a game of hide and seek.

In this project, we considered how people hide items from (or look for items hidden by) other people, and where they look for items hidden by others in a 4 x 4 grid (image below). Participants had to hide an item from either someone they wanted to find the item (a friend), or someone they didn’t want to find the item (a foe). The person they were hiding/seeking the item from were sat either on the same side of the grid as them, or on the other side of the grid.

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When hiding items from a friend or finding items hidden by a friend, there is a tendency to hunt for the item in locations relatively near to oneself compared to when the other person is a foe. But that is only true when the friend is believed to be viewing the grid from the same side as the participant, suggesting participants are taking into account not only our beliefs about the other person’s intentions (as a friend or foe), but also the actions that are afforded to them from their perspective.

Participants adapted to the affordances and the intentions of the other person, indicative of a role for theory of mind. That is, when participants believed that they were hiding an item from a friend sat on the same side of the grid as themselves, they tended to hide the item near themselves. This ‘near bias’ reduced when they believed the friend was on the other side of the grid. When hiding from a foe, though, participants showed no preference for where on the screen they hid the item.

Selected References

Street, C. N. H., Bischof, W. F., & Kingstone, A. (2017).  Perspective taking and theory of mind in hide and seek. Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics. Advance online publication. doi: 10.3758/s13414-017-1446-y. [pdf]

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