★ Compared effects of cueing the colour or orientation of a conjunction target on eye movements and search times. ★ Manipulated distractor ratio to bias search towards smaller subsets matching the target. ★ Cueing effects interacted with the number of stimuli sharing the cued feature. ★ Propose a two-stage model in which colour cues facilitate the parsing of stimuli into colour-defined groups. ★ Cues to the orientation of the target are only effective at this second stage.
We provide novel evidence for a two-stage model of visual search applied to the selection based on top-down cues to stimulus colour and orientation. The model supposes that visual displays are first parsed into colour based groups, a process that is modulated by the presence of an initial cue to the target’s colour. Subsequently search is directed to other featural properties represented within the colour-based groups. Cues to the orientation of the target are only effective at this second stage. The results provide strong evidence that colour and orientation cues operate in different ways to guide search.