Visual Thinking Lab

We study visual thinking:
how it works, and how
educaton + design can
make it work better.

Tracking Multiple Objects Is Limited Only by Object Spacing, Not by Speed, Time, or Capacity (pdf)


In dealing with a dynamic world, people have the ability to maintain selective attention on a subset of moving objects in the environment. Performance in such multiple-object tracking is limited by three primary factors—the number of objects that one can track, the speed at which one can track them, and how close together they can be. We argue that this last limit, of object spacing, is the root cause of all performance constraints in multiple-object tracking. In two experiments, we found that as long as the distribution of object spacing is held constant, tracking performance is unaffected by large changes in object speed and tracking time. These results suggest that barring object-spacing constraints, people could reliably track an unlimited number of objects as fast as they could track a single object

Condition 1: Easy, Short Distance

Condition 2: Slow, Same Distance

Condition 3: Medium, Same Distance

Condition 4: Fast, Same Distance

Condition 5: Impossible, Long Distance

Condition 6: Fastest, Same Distance