Target features and target-distractor relation are both primed in visual search

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Intertrial priming in visual search is the finding that repeating target and distractor features from one trial to the next speeds up search, relative to when these features change. Recently, Becker (2008) reported evidence that it is not so much the repetition of absolute feature values that causes priming, but repetition of the relation between target and distractors. For example, in search for a unique size, the size of the search elements may change from trial to trial, but this does not hurt performance as long as the target remains consistently larger (or smaller) than the distractors. Becker (2008) concluded that such findings are difficult to reconcile with existing theory. Here, we replicate the findings in the dimensions of size, color, and luminance and show that these effects are not due to the magnitude of feature changes or to search strategies, as may be induced by blocking versus mixing different types of intertrial changes experienced by observers. However, we show that repeating a feature from one trial to the next does convey a benefit above and beyond repeating the target-distractor relation. We argue that both effects can be readily accounted for within current models of visual search. Priming of relations results when one assumes the existence of cardinal feature channels, as do most models of visual search. Additional priming of specific values results when one assumes broadly distributed, overlapping feature channels. © 2014 Psychonomic Society, Inc.
Original languageEnglish
Article number3
Pages (from-to)682-694
JournalAttention, Perception & Psychophysics
Issue number76
Publication statusPublished - 2014


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