Some puzzling findings in multiple object tracking: I. Tracking without keeping track of object identities

Abstract
The task of tracking a small number (about four or five) visual targets within a larger set of identical items, each of which moves randomly and independently, has been used extensively to study object-based attention. Analysis of this multiple object tracking (MOT) task shows that it logically entails solving the correspondence problem for each target over time, and thus that the individuality of each of the targets must be tracked. This suggests that when successfully tracking objects, observers must also keep track of them as unique individuals. Yet in the present studies we show that observers are poor at recalling the identity of successfully tracked objects (as specified by a unique identifier associated with each target, such as a number or starting location). Studies also show that the identity of targets tends to be lost when they come close together and that this tendency is greater between pairs of targets than between targets and nontargets. The significance of this finding in relation to the multiple object tracking paradigm is discussed.
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