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Gregory Wade, Timothy Vickery; Target self-relevance enhances visual search efficiency. Journal of Vision 2017;17(10):1301. doi: 10.1167/17.10.1301.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
Merely associating one's sense of self with a stimulus enhances speed and accuracy of responses to that stimulus in a label-matching paradigm (Sui, He, & Humphreys, 2012), implying prioritized processing of self-relevant stimuli. However, the precise mechanisms underlying self-relevant prioritization are still unclear. It has been proposed that self-relevance can affect perception, decision making, and memory stages of cognition. We sought to elucidate the potential mechanisms affected by self-relevance using a visual search paradigm. We asked whether self-relevance of a target enhances search response times (RTs), and if so, whether such enhancement involves improvements to search efficiency, which is often viewed as a proxy for perceptual salience of a target. During a brief training period, subjects learned that three unique shapes with different colors were associated with the labels SELF, FRIEND, and OTHER. These stimuli were then used as the targets in a visual search task, with target pre-cued from trial-to-trial using the trained labels. Distractors were color and shape combinations not associated with the potential targets. Search set sizes was randomly varied (4, 8, 16, or 32), allowing us to examine the RT x set size relationship as a function of target label. Confirming the effect of self-relevance on performance, SELF targets were found faster than the two non-self-relevant targets. Critically, both the intercept and the slope of the RT x set size function was reduced for SELF compared to the other labels. These results imply that self-relevance enhances the efficiency of visual search, an index often considered an indicator of perceptual salience. We propose that self-relevance enhances perceptual salience of self-relevant attributes, as reflected by search slope reduction. Effects on the intercept may reflect additional perceptual, memory, and/or decision-making processes influenced by self-relevance.
Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2017
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