Grad Student Nathan Powell Gives March 29 "Research Problems in CogSci" Talk

Grad Student Nathan Powell Gives March 29 "Research Problems in CogSci" Talk

Date posted: 2017-03-24 14:13:07

Cognitive Science PhD candidate Nathan Powell is the speaker for Research Problems in Cognitive Science this Wednesday, March 29, at 12 noon in Sage 4101.  Powell's talk is entitled "Choosing actions that maintain energy level during repeated target interception tasks."

Many sports and real-world activities require people to repeatedly intercept moving targets.  A key element of success in such situations is the ability to select which targets to pursue.  Chasing targets that are moving too quickly to catch is futile.  Even catchable targets may sometimes be best left to get away if, for example, the energetic costs of interception would leave the actor in a state of exhaustion and unable to pursue the next target. Thus, actors must not only take into account how fast they are capable of moving, but also decide whether pursuit of a target at a particular pace is worth the anticipated energy expenditure and the diminished ability to pursue targets in the future.

To investigate how actors take all of these factors into account, we instructed subjects to use a steering wheel and foot pedal to catch cylindrical targets in a virtual environment before they escaped into a forest on the edge of an open field. The objective was to catch as many targets as possible in the time allotted for each block.  However, sprinting after every target led to poor performance because the farther subjects depressed the foot pedal, the more quickly they lost energy. This reduced the speed at which they were capable of moving and lengthened the time they needed to rest in order to once again catch faster targets.

We found that subjects were sensitive to their changing energy levels on a trial by trial basis.  The data also suggest that subjects were able to anticipate how their action capabilities diminished when they chased targets and how this would affect their ability to catch the target on the current trial and in the near future.

The talk is free and open to the Rensselaer community.