August 2016
Volume 16, Issue 12
Open Access
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   September 2016
The emergence of the costs and benefits of grouping during visual search
Author Affiliations
  • Rachel Wu
    Department of Psychology, UC Riverside
  • Gaia Scerif
    Department of Experimental Psychology, University of Oxford
  • Richard Aslin
    Brain and Cognitive Sciences, University of Rochester
Journal of Vision September 2016, Vol.16, 902. doi:
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      Rachel Wu, Gaia Scerif, Richard Aslin; The emergence of the costs and benefits of grouping during visual search. Journal of Vision 2016;16(12):902.

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

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Previous visual search studies suggest that an attentional template for the target can be prioritized, but the breadth and nature of this attentional template has not been clarified. Grouping features into objects and objects into categories should facilitate search performance by maximizing the amount of information carried by the attentional template. A series of six N2pc ERP studies shows the emergence of the benefits and costs of grouping during visual search. Study 1 confirms that searching for 1 item (a letter) is more efficient than 2+ items (multiple letters) at both neural (attenuated N2pc) and behavioral levels (slower reaction time and lower accuracy). Regarding the benefits of grouping, Study 2 shows that if category knowledge can be applied during visual search, 1-item (a letter) and multiple-item search (any letter) is very similar. Study 3 extends this finding to real-world objects (clothing/faces). Using novel stimuli, Study 4 shows that a heterogeneous set of items grouped by an abstract rule and not by common perceptual features can facilitate search. Regarding the costs of grouping, when asked to search for one item in a category (search for the letter "A") and a foil item from the category appears (the letter "R"), participants exhibit attentional capture to the foil at both neural and behavioral levels (Study 2). Study 5 shows that the "foil effect" is predicted by prior experience (distinguishing healthy and unhealthy foods based on dieting intensity). Study 6 shows that the foil effect emerges over one experimental session via training with novel stimuli. Taken together, these six studies show how the emergence of categorically-based attentional templates can help overcome efficiency limitations in visual search by constraining the scope of target search due to previous knowledge, yet at the cost of false alarms to non-targets that fall within the search category.

Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2016


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