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Adrian Muhlenen; The role of memory in static and dynamic visual search. Journal of Vision 2003;3(9):564. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/3.9.564.
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The role of memory in visual search has lately become a controversial issue. Horowitz and Wolfe (H&W, 1998) asked participants to search displays for a letter “T” among letters “L” in two experimental conditions: In the static condition, the displays remained unchanged, whereas in the dynamic condition, all letters were randomly re-located every 111 ms. If search involves a memory-based mechanism that keeps track of the previously examined locations, observers would be expected to have great difficulties searching the dynamic display. Surprisingly, the target-present search rates in the dynamic did not differ from those in the static condition. Because a memory-based mechanism would be of no use in the dynamic condition, H&W concluded that memory is likewise not involved in the static condition.
One alternative explanation for the results of H&W is that participants adopted a sit-and-wait strategy, which consists of attending to a region of the display and waiting for the target to appear there. Although H&W tried to rule out such an alternative explanation, this study argues that their participants have opted for a more sophisticated sit-and-wait strategy, one that allows the attentional focus to encompass several stimulus locations, and where the attentional focus can be shifted to other areas after some time has elapsed.
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