A Preliminary Investigation of the Reinforcement Function of Signal Detections in Simulated Baggage Screening: Further Support for the Vigilance Reinforcement Hypothesis

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Taylor & Francis


The vigilance reinforcement hypothesis (VRH) asserts that errors in signal detection tasks are partially explained by operant reinforcement and extinction processes. VRH predictions were tested with a computerized baggage screening task. Our experiment evaluated the effects of signal schedule (extinction vs. variable interval 6 min) and visual field complexity (dial vs. baggage x-ray) on search behavior rates. There was a main effect for signal schedule [F (1, 20) = 14.0, p = .001, prep = 0.99], but no effects for field complexity or interaction. The VRH suggests that performance errors in visual screening work may be reduced through operant conditioning of search behaviors by intensive management of artificially planted signals.