Through a Scanner Quickly: Elicitation of P3 in Transportation Security Officers Following Rapid Image Presentation and Categorization

  • Michael C. TrumboEmail author
  • Laura E. Matzen
  • Austin Silva
  • Michael J. Haass
  • Kristin Divis
  • Ann Speed
Conference paper
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 9183)


Numerous domains, ranging from medical diagnostics to intelligence analysis, involve visual search tasks in which people must find and identify specific items within large sets of imagery. These tasks rely heavily on human judgment, making fully automated systems infeasible in many cases. Researchers have investigated methods for combining human judgment with computational processing to increase the speed at which humans can triage large image sets. One such method is rapid serial visual presentation (RSVP), in which images are presented in rapid succession to a human viewer. While viewing the images and looking for targets of interest, the participant’s brain activity is recorded using electroencephalography (EEG). The EEG signals can be time-locked to the presentation of each image, producing event-related potentials (ERPs) that provide information about the brain’s response to those stimuli. The participants’ judgments about whether or not each set of images contained a target and the ERPs elicited by target and non-target images are used to identify subsets of images that merit close expert scrutiny [1]. Although the RSVP/EEG paradigm holds promise for helping professional visual searchers to triage imagery rapidly, it may be limited by the nature of the target items. Targets that do not vary a great deal in appearance are likely to elicit useable ERPs, but more variable targets may not. In the present study, we sought to extend the RSVP/EEG paradigm to the domain of aviation security screening, and in doing so to explore the limitations of the technique for different types of targets. Professional Transportation Security Officers (TSOs) viewed bag X-rays that were presented using an RSVP paradigm. The TSOs viewed bursts of images containing 50 segments of bag X-rays that were presented for 100 ms each. Following each burst of images, the TSOs indicated whether or not they thought there was a threat item in any of the images in that set. EEG was recorded during each burst of images and ERPs were calculated by time-locking the EEG signal to the presentation of images containing threats and matched images that were identical except for the presence of the threat item. Half of the threat items had a prototypical appearance and half did not. We found that the bag images containing threat items with a prototypical appearance reliably elicited a P300 ERP component, while those without a prototypical appearance did not. These findings have implications for the application of the RSVP/EEG technique to real-world visual search domains.


Rapid serial visual presentation Visual search EEG P300 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael C. Trumbo
    • 1
    Email author
  • Laura E. Matzen
    • 1
  • Austin Silva
    • 1
  • Michael J. Haass
    • 1
  • Kristin Divis
    • 1
  • Ann Speed
    • 1
  1. 1.Sandia National LaboratoriesAlbuquerqueUSA

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