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Steven Pesina, D. Alexander Varakin; Repeated search can make search slower and less efficient.. Journal of Vision 2020;20(11):637. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/jov.20.11.637.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
Phenomena such as contextual cuing demonstrate that memory can facilitate visual search. In contextual cuing, observers search repeatedly through the same configurations, and as long as the relationship between target (e.g. rotated T) and distractor (e.g. rotated L’s) locations remains stable, search becomes faster and more efficient (Conci & Müller, 2012, Visual Cognition). However, sometimes visual search proceeds without relying on memory. For example, in Wolfe, Klempen, and Dahlen (2000, JEP: HPP), observers repeatedly searched the same displays hundreds of times. Despite ample opportunity to become familiar with each display, visual search did not become faster or more efficient. The current experiment used a repeated search paradigm to test if observers could use knowledge of where targets had appeared in previous trials in order to facilitate search. Participants’ task was to search for a rotated T amongst rotated L’s (set sizes of 8, 12 and 16). The same configuration was searched 8 times consecutively, and within a repetition series, the target never appeared in the same location, but appeared in a unique location on each trial. Participants were told that configurations would repeat for 8 consecutive trials, and that target location would not. The results showed a significant decrease in the efficiency (slope increased from 37 ms/item on the first repetition to about 50 ms/item on the eighth) and an increase in response time as configurations repeated. In this case, memory for past searches seems to have interfered with search. This result may be explained by the idea that locations that were once occupied by distractors are inhibited from one trial to the next.
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