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Nonie J. Finlayson, Roger W. Remington, James D. Retell, Philip M. Grove; Segmentation by depth does not always facilitate visual search. Journal of Vision 2013;13(8):11. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/13.8.11.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
In visual search, target detection times are relatively insensitive to set size when targets and distractors differ on a single feature dimension. Search can be confined to only those elements sharing a single feature, such as color (Egeth, Virzi, & Garbart, 1984). These findings have been taken as evidence that elementary feature dimensions support a parallel segmentation of a scene into discrete sets of items. Here we explored if relative depth (signaled by binocular disparity) could support a similar parallel segmentation by examining the effects of distributing distracting elements across two depth planes. Three important empirical findings emerged. First, when the target was a feature singleton on the target depth plane, but a conjunction search among distractors on the nontarget plane, search efficiency increased compared to a single depth plane. Second, benefits of segmentation in depth were only observed when the target depth plane was known in advance. Third, no benefit of segmentation in depth was observed when both planes required a conjunction search, even with prior knowledge of the target depth plane. Overall, the benefit of distributing the elements of a search set across two depth planes was observed only when the two planes differed both in binocular disparity and in the elementary feature composition of individual elements. We conclude that segmentation of the search array into two depth planes can facilitate visual search, but unlike color or other elementary properties, does not provide an automatic, preattentive segmentation.
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