Incidental learning speeds visual search by lowering response thresholds, not by improving efficiency: Evidence from eye movements

Michael C. Hout, Stephen Goldinger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations

Abstract

When observers search for a target object, they incidentally learn the identities and locations of "background" objects in the same display. This learning can facilitate search performance, eliciting faster reaction times for repeated displays. Despite these findings, visual search has been successfully modeled using architectures that maintain no history of attentional deployments; they are amnesic (e.g., Guided Search Theory). In the current study, we asked two questions: 1) under what conditions does such incidental learning occur? And 2) what does viewing behavior reveal about the efficiency of attentional deployments over time? In two experiments, we tracked eye movements during repeated visual search, and we tested incidental memory for repeated nontarget objects. Across conditions, the consistency of search sets and spatial layouts were manipulated to assess their respective contributions to learning. Using viewing behavior, we contrasted three potential accounts for faster searching with experience. The results indicate that learning does not result in faster object identification or greater search efficiency. Instead, familiar search arrays appear to allow faster resolution of search decisions, whether targets are present or absent.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)90-112
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance
Volume38
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 2012

Keywords

  • Attention
  • Learning
  • Visual search
  • Working memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Behavioral Neuroscience

Fingerprint

Dive into the research topics of 'Incidental learning speeds visual search by lowering response thresholds, not by improving efficiency: Evidence from eye movements'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this