September 2015
Volume 15, Issue 12
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   September 2015
Phonological Interference in Visual Search: Object Names are Automatically Activated in Non-Linguistic Tasks
Author Affiliations
  • Stephen Walenchok
    Arizona State University
  • Michael Hout
    New Mexico State University
  • Stephen Goldinger
    Arizona State University
Journal of Vision September 2015, Vol.15, 65. doi:
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      Stephen Walenchok, Michael Hout, Stephen Goldinger; Phonological Interference in Visual Search: Object Names are Automatically Activated in Non-Linguistic Tasks. Journal of Vision 2015;15(12):65. doi:

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      © ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)

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During visual search, it is well known that items sharing visual similarity with the target create interference (e.g., searching for a baseball among softballs vs. a baseball among bats). Although such a task is inherently visual, might linguistic similarity between target and background items’ names also create interference? We conducted several experiments in which people searched for either one or three potential targets, among a background of distractors that either shared a phonological overlap with the target(s) (e.g., “beast” and “beanstalk”) or had no overlap (e.g., “beast” and “glasses”). Experiment 1 involved standard oculomotor search, Experiment 2 presented a serial search task in which participants manually rejected distractors (or confirmed the target), and Experiment 3 again presented oculomotor search, while also tracking eye movements. We varied whether targets were initially specified by visual icons or verbally as names. We predicted that when searching for a single item, people could easily maintain a visual representation of the target in memory, resulting in minimal activation of linguistic information. When searching for multiple items, however, visual memory demands are high. In order to minimize these demands, people might use less taxing verbal codes as a memory aid during search (i.e., rehearsing target names). If so, these verbal codes may increase the potential for linguistic interference when target and distractor names share phonological overlap. All three experiments revealed effects of phonological interference, but only under high target load, and primarily when targets were specified verbally. In Experiment 4, we tested whether concurrent articulatory suppression during search might minimize verbal memory strategies and eliminate such effects of phonological interference. Phonological competition effects remained robust, however, indicating that distractor names are automatically activated under high cognitive demands and that verbal strategies are not the sole source of phonological interference in search.

Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2015


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