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Robbie M. Cooper, Anna S. Law, Stephen R. H. Langton; Looking back at the stare-in-the-crowd effect: Staring eyes do not capture attention in visual search. Journal of Vision 2013;13(6):10. doi: 10.1167/13.6.10.
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© 2017 Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology.
The stare-in-the crowd effect refers to the finding that a visual search for a target of staring eyes among averted-eyes distracters is more efficient than the search for an averted-eyes target among staring distracters. This finding could indicate that staring eyes are prioritized in the processing of the search array so that attention is more likely to be directed to their location than to any other. However, visual search is a complex process, which not only depends upon the properties of the target, but also the similarity between the target of the search and the distractor items and between the distractor items themselves. Across five experiments, we show that the search asymmetry diagnostic of the stare-in-the-crowd effect is more likely to be the result of a failure to control for the similarity among distracting items between the two critical search conditions rather than any special attention-grabbing property of staring gazes. Our results suggest that, contrary to results reported in the literature, staring gazes are not prioritized by attention in visual search.
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