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Nick Gaspelin, Travis N. Talcott, Steven J. Luck; Assessing the Competition Between Location-Based Selection History and Explicit Goals. Journal of Vision 2019;19(10):53. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/19.10.53.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
Previous research on visual search has focused on the role of explicit goals on attentional guidance. However, there is now considerable evidence that visual attention is also influenced, in a seemingly unconscious and automatic manner, by recent experience (called selection history). In the current study, we investigated whether attention is automatically biased to the location of the target from the previous trial (called location priming) even when the actual target is at a different location. Previous studies investigating this question have mostly used manual RTs and manual accuracy to show that faciliatory effects on target detection when the target location is repeated. In the current study, we provide more direct evidence of location priming by measuring eye movements. This allowed us to precisely quantify the relative likelihood that a search item attracted visual attention depending on whether or not its location was primed. Surprisingly, we found that first eye movements were strongly biased toward the target location from the previous trial, even though this location was completely nonpredictive of the upcoming target location. The amount of location priming varied parametrically as a function of how difficult the current target was to locate. Altogether, these results suggest that recent experience can overpower explicit goals in guiding visual attention, especially when the target is difficult to find via explicit goals.
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