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Joseph Krummenacher, Alain Chavaillaz; The roles of visual features in the generation of the contextual cuing effect. Journal of Vision 2011;11(11):144. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/11.11.144.
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It is well established that repeating the context in which a target appears improves performance in an inefficient visual search task (Chun & Jiang, 1998). Although this effect, referred to as “contextual cuing”, was initially attributed exclusively to the development of a memory of the spatial object configuration through repetition, recent studies (Geyer, Shi & Müller, 2010; Huang, 2006) demonstrated that object features (i.e., color) contribute actively to the effect. The present work aims at investigating the relative contribution of two features (namely color and orientation) to the generation of contextual cuing in three experiments. Experiment 1, conducted to provide a baseline data set, is a replication of Chun and Jiang's (1998) Experiment 1 in which participants have to discriminate the orientation of a target surrounded by distractors with various colors and orientations; Experiments 2 and 3 use the same search displays but an object feature is changed after the first half of the sessions and kept changed in the remaining sessions: In repeated trials of Experiment 2, all objects exchange color, while in Experiment 3, objects exchange orientation. The change in object color makes contextual cuing vanish, whereas the change in object orientation does not alter the contextual cuing effect, neither locally (i.e., directly after the manipulation), nor globally (in the entire second set of experimental sessions). In accordance to Geyer et al. and Huang, these results confirm that not only the location of the objects but also their color is integrated into contextual associations. By contrast, orientation information, probably because it underlies target identification, does not provide a reliable global cue of the target position. Overall, object features seem to play a role in the generation of the contextual cuing effect, but not all of them at the same level or with the same magnitude.
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