Attentional guidance varies with display density

Marlies Van de Weijgert*, Erik Van der Burg, Mieke Donk

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The aim of the present study was to investigate how display density affects attentional guidance in heterogeneous search displays. In Experiment 1 we presented observers with heterogeneous sparse and dense search displays which were adaptively changed over the course of the experiment using genetic algorithms. We generated random displays, and based upon fastest search times, the displays that allowed most efficient search were selected to generate new displays for the next generations, thus revealing which properties facilitated or inhibited target search across display densities. The results showed that the prevalence of distractors sharing the target color was substantially reduced over generations in sparse displays. Dense displays also evolved to contain less distractors sharing the target color but only when the orientation of the distractors resembled the target orientation. More importantly, spatial analyses revealed that changes across generations occurred across all areas in sparse displays but were confined to occur around the target location only in dense displays. In Experiment 2, in which we used a factorial design, we showed that the presence of potentially interfering distractors in the target area affected search in dense displays but not in sparse displays. Together the results suggest that the role of salience-driven attentional guidance is larger in dense than sparse displays even in the absence of display homogeneity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
JournalVision research
Early online date5 Sept 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2019


  • Attentional guidance
  • Display density
  • Features
  • Salience
  • Visual search

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