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Mary Bravo, Hany Farid; Symbolic distractor cues facilitate search. Journal of Vision 2012;12(9):727. doi: 10.1167/12.9.727.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
When observers practice finding a particular target among a particular type of distractor, their search times become faster. One benefit of practice is that it allows observers to hone a search template that optimally distinguishes the target from the distractors. If observers practice searching for this same target among a different type of distractor, they will likely develop a different search template. This study examined whether observers can switch among these search templates if they are provided with a symbolic cue to the distractors’ identity prior to the search display. The search items were photographs of four very similar objects (four wristwatches or four fishing lures) with one object selected to serve as the target. In two training sessions, observers practiced finding this target among distractors drawn from the other three objects. Each search display was comprised of the target and five identical distractors arranged randomly but without overlap. Observers indicated whether the target appeared on the right or left side of the display. During the training sessions, displays with different distractors were run in separate blocks of trials, and each trial was preceded by a symbolic cue (a number) that identified the distractors. During a subsequent testing session, displays with different distractors were randomly intermixed, and half of the trials were preceded by the symbolic distractor cue. Ten observers ran the experiment with either the wristwatch or fishing lure stimuli. For all observers, the symbolic distractor cue produced a robust decrease in search times (t(9) = 5.16, p <0.001, 15% average decrease ) with no change in accuracy. This result indicates that observers can develop multiple search templates for the same target object and that observers can readily switch among these templates to optimize their search.
Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2012
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