Theories on visual search differ substantially with respect to the relationship they assume between localization and identification processes. The aim of the present study was to rigorously compare the alternative theoretical notions on how localization and identification processes are related. In two experiments, participants searched for a target with a unique line orientation among distractors containing another orientation. Localization and identification performance were measured in combination, as function of display size and target eccentricity. To compare the alternative theories, formal binomial models were developed and compared with respect to their goodness of fit to the individual data. The formal analyses showed that the model assuming identification processes to be conditioned on localization processes provided the best fit to the individual data. Furthermore, maximum likelihood estimates of the parameter corresponding to identification processes were differently affected by display size than identification performance was. The results were discussed in terms of their implication for current theories on visual search. © 2001 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.