Simultaneous priming along multiple feature dimensions in a visual search task

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Abstract

What we have recently seen generally has a large effect on how we consequently perceive our visual environment. Such priming effects play a surprisingly large role in visual search tasks, for example. It is unclear, however, whether different features of an object show independent but simultaneous priming. For example, if the color and orientation of a target item are the same as on a previous trial, is performance better than if only one of those features is repeated? In other words this paper presents an attempt at assessing the capacity of priming for different feature dimensions. Observers searched for a three featured object (a gabor patch that was either redscale or greenscale, oriented either to the left or right of vertical and of high or low spatial frequency) among distractors with different values along these feature dimensions. Which feature was the target defining feature; which was the response defining feature and which was the irrelevant feature, was varied between the different experiments. Task relevant features (target defining, or response defining) always resulted in priming effects, while when spatial frequency or orientation were task irrelevant neither resulted in priming, but color always did, even when task irrelevant. Further experiments showed that priming from spatial frequency and orientation could occur when they were task irrelevant but only when the other feature of the two was kept constant across all display items. The results show that simultaneous priming for different features can occur simultaneously, but also that task relevance has a strong modulatory effect on the priming.

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