, Volume 197, Issue 4, pp 395-401,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.
Date: 10 Jul 2009

Combining eye and hand in search is suboptimal


When performing everyday tasks, we often move our eyes and hand together: we look where we are reaching in order to better guide the hand. This coordinated pattern with the eye leading the hand is presumably optimal behaviour. But eyes and hands can move to different locations if they are involved in different tasks. To find out whether this leads to optimal performance, we studied the combination of visual and haptic search. We asked ten participants to perform a combined visual and haptic search for a target that was present in both modalities and compared their search times to those on visual only and haptic only search tasks. Without distractors, search times were faster for visual search than for haptic search. With many visual distractors, search times were longer for visual than for haptic search. For the combined search, performance was poorer than the optimal strategy whereby each modality searched a different part of the display. The results are consistent with several alternative accounts, for instance with vision and touch searching independently at the same time.