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Günter Meinhardt, Malte Persike; The preview benefit in single-feature and conjunction search: Constraints of visual marking. Journal of Vision 2015;15(13):13. doi: 10.1167/15.13.13.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
Previewing distracters enhances the efficiency of visual search. Watson and Humphreys (1997) proposed that the preview benefit rests on visual marking, a mechanism which actively encodes distracter locations at preview and inhibits them afterwards at search. As Watson and Humphreys did, we used a letter–color search task to study constraints of visual marking in conjunction search and near-efficient single-feature search with single-colored and homogeneous distracter letters. Search performance was measured for fixed target and distracter features (block design) and for randomly changed features across trials (random design). In single-feature search there was a full preview benefit for both block and random designs. In conjunction search a full preview benefit was obtained only for the block design; randomly changing target and distracter features disrupted the preview benefit. However, the preview benefit was restored when the distracters were organized in spatially coherent blocks. These findings imply that the temporal segregation of old and new items is sufficient for visual marking in near-efficient single-feature search, while in conjunction search it is not. We propose a supplanting grouping principle for the preview benefit: When the new items add a new color, conjunction search is initialized and attentional resources are withdrawn from the marking mechanism. Visual marking can be restored by a second grouping principle that joins with temporal asynchrony. This principle can be either spatial or feature based. In the case of the latter, repetition priming is necessary to establish joint grouping by color and temporal asynchrony.
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