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Hirokazu Ogawa, Takatsune Kumada; Coarse-to-fine encoding of contextual information in visual search. Journal of Vision 2005;5(8):945. doi: 10.1167/5.8.945.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
A previous study demonstrated that individual target-distractor associations were learned in contextual cueing (Jiang & Wagner, 2004). In the present study, we examined whether individual association can be learned in an efficient visual search task that does not involve attentional deployment individually to search items. In Experiment 1, participants engaged in a learning phase of an efficient search, followed by a test phase in which they performed an inefficient search task. A given target location was paired with two sets of distractor locations on separate trials, and they were repeatedly presented in the learning phase (repeated layouts). In the following test phase, the half of the repeated layouts were made invariant, while the other half of those were reconstructed by recombining half of distractors in one trained set with half of distractors in another trained set (recombined layouts). The result showed that the contextual cueing effect was transferred to the test phase only for repeated layouts, not for recombined layouts. These results can be interpreted as evidence that attentional deployment to individual search items is necessary for learning of the individual association. However, an alternative possibility is that shorter reaction time for efficient search may not allow enough time to encode individual associations. To test the possibility, in Experiment 2, search display was preceded by placeholders that marked the future locations of the items. The placeholders appeared for 750 ms and allowed to start encoding of contextual cueing before the presentation of the search display. The result showed that the contextual cueing effect was transferred for recombined layouts to the same level as repeated layouts, indicating that the learning of individual associations does not require attentional deployment, but just sufficient time. Our data suggest that contextual information is encoded in a coarse-to-fine manner with available time for encoding.
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