Same-Location Costs in Peripheral Cueing: The Role of Cue Awareness and Feature Changes

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Prior studies using the peripheral cueing paradigm have shown that singleton cues that do not match to the top-down search settings of the observer can impair performance in visual search when the cue appears at the target location (in valid conditions) compared with when the cue appears at a location away from the target (in invalid conditions). This pattern, the same-location cost (SLC), has recently been suggested to originate from an awareness-dependent updating of object files in working memory. It has also been argued that the processes underlying the SLC could have obscured results of prior studies by masking attentional capture effects by peripheral cues under certain conditions. Here, we investigated to which extent the object-file updating hypothesis can be generalized and delineate necessary side conditions for object-file updating to produce the SLC. In Experiments 1 to 3, we show that during search for spatial frequencies, SLCs emerged that are at odds with the object-file updating hypothesis. SLCs were not dependent on cue awareness and were, unlike SLCs with color cues and targets (Experiment 4), not entirely eliminated where feature updating was necessary in valid and invalid conditions. We conclude that some instances of the SLC can be explained by object-file updating, but, as the present study shows, other instances of the SLC are at odds with this explanation and are therefore more likely of an attentional origin. We end with a discussion of which side conditions might favor the emergence of SLCs as a result of object-file updating.

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