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David Pascucci, Tommaso Mastropasqua, Massimo Turatto; Permeability of priming of pop out to expectations. Journal of Vision 2012;12(10):21. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/12.10.21.
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It is well established that repetition of the same target color across consecutive trials enhances search efficiency for pop-out targets; this phenomenon is known as Priming of Pop out (PoP). In three experiments, we addressed whether PoP interacts with top-down expectations in altering target visibility, which was manipulated via metacontrast masking. The target color either remained the same for n consecutive trials (blocked condition) or changed unpredictably (random condition). The results showed that PoP reduced the efficacy of masking and that its beneficial effect can be either potentiated or attenuated by participants' expectations about the upcoming target color. These findings undermine the view that PoP should be impermeable to top-down factors. In addition, we found evidence that both explicit and implicit expectations interact with PoP. The former can be induced via instructions on the rate of alternation of the target color, and the latter can be induced by random sequences in which repetitions of the same target color exceed those predicted by an internal model of randomness for binary events. In the latter case, more than three repetitions of the same target color led to a decline in target visibility. We speculate that, in the random condition, after few repetitions of the same target, participants developed an expectation for a change; this phenomenon is similar to the “gambler's fallacy.” Finally, our analyses revealed no effect of expectation on switch trials (i.e., when the target color changed), which casts doubt on the efficacy of top-down control in feature search.
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