Lack of free choice reveals the cost of multiple-target search within and across feature dimensions

Eduard Ort*, Johannes Jacobus Fahrenfort, Christian N.L. Olivers

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Having to look for multiple targets typically results in switch costs. However, using a gaze-contingent eyetracking paradigm with multiple color-defined targets, we have recently shown that the emergence of switch costs depends on whether observers can choose a target or a target is being imposed upon them. Here, using a similar paradigm, we tested whether these findings generalize to the situation in which targets are specified across different feature dimensions. We instructed participants to simultaneously search for, and then fixate, either of two possible targets presented among distractors. The targets were defined as either two colors, two shapes, or one color and one shape. In one condition, only one of the two targets was available in each display, so that the choice was imposed. In the other condition, both targets would be present in each display, which gave observers free choice over what to search for. Consistent with our earlier findings, switch costs emerged when targets were imposed, whereas no switch costs emerged when target selection was free, irrespective of the dimension in which the targets were defined. The results are consistent with the operation of different modes of control in multiple-target search, with switch costs emerging whenever reactive control is required and being reduced or absent when displays allow for proactive control.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1904-1917
Number of pages14
JournalAttention, Perception, and Psychophysics
Issue number8
Early online date7 Aug 2018
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2018


  • Cognitive and attentional control
  • Eye movements
  • Visual attention
  • Visual search


Dive into the research topics of 'Lack of free choice reveals the cost of multiple-target search within and across feature dimensions'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this