Two (or three) is one too many: Testing the flexibility of contextual cueing with multiple target locations

  • Zellin M
  • Conci M
  • von Mühlenen A
 et al. 
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Visual search for a target object is facilitated when the object is repeatedly presented within an invariant context of surrounding items ("contextual cueing"; Chun & Jiang, Cognitive Psychology, 36, 28-71, 1998). The present study investigated whether such invariant contexts can cue more than one target location. In a series of three experiments, we showed that contextual cueing is significantly reduced when invariant contexts are paired with two rather than one possible target location, whereas no contextual cueing occurs with three distinct target locations. Closer data inspection revealed that one "dominant" target always exhibited substantially more contextual cueing than did the other, "minor" target(s), which caused negative contextual-cueing effects. However, minor targets could benefit from the invariant context when they were spatially close to the dominant target. In sum, our experiments suggest that contextual cueing can guide visual attention to a spatially limited region of the display, only enhancing the detection of targets presented inside that region.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Contextual cueing
  • Perceptual implicit memory
  • Visual search

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