Visual Estimation of Human Attributes: An Empirical Study of Context-dependent Human Observation Capabilities

Kerker, D.1, Jenkins, M.2, Gross, G.2, Bizantz, A.2, and and R. Nagi, R.3

Proceedings of IEEE International Multi-Disciplinary Conference on Cognitive Methods in Situation Awareness and Decision Support (CogSIMA), San Antonio, TX (March 2014)

Visual estimations of target attributes in a real-world environment are highly context-dependent when the estimations are provided by human observers. For example, the accuracy of an individual estimating the age, height, or weight of another person is dependent upon environmental (e.g., viewing distance), observer (e.g., age/height/weight), and target (e.g., clothing, gate) factors. Prior efforts have attempted to characterize the ability of humans to estimate attributes of other humans; however, these studies typically only present observers with static images in controlled settings. The present study instead characterizes observations of attributes made of a more dynamic, real world. Participants provide estimates of target individuals’ ages, heights, and weights, along with other descriptive data, as they watched video recorded scenes of simulated, realistic security incidents. Results indicate the anchoring effect demonstrated in prior efforts may not be as prevalent under more ecologically-valid viewing conditions; however, individuals are still able to provide relatively accurate estimations of individuals’ age, height, and weight, with minimal influence of the observers’ own physical attributes.


SUNY University at Buffalo
Charles River Analytics
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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