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Effects of colour on preview search: Anticipatory and inhibitory biases for colour

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For more content, see Multisensory Research and Seeing and Perceiving.

Two experiments are reported examining the effects of colour grouping, colour change and target colour foreknowledge under preview search conditions (Watson and Humphreys, 1997). In Experiment 1 we manipulated the colour homogeneity of the old items at initial presentation, and the colour these items subsequently changed into. In all cases participants knew the colour of the target. We found that when the old items changed into the same colour as the new search set, search performance was affected. In Experiment 2 participants did not know the colour of the target. Here we found evidence for a negative colour-based carry-over effect that slowed search for new targets carrying the colour of the old items. This occurred even when the old items changed their original colour and the new target was a singleton. Collectively the results suggest an important role for both colour grouping and colour-based inhibition in the successful rejection of old distractors. The consequence of this, however, is that new stimuli that may carry the critical attribute may take longer to detect. We discuss the results in relation to prior 'feature-blind' accounts of preview effects on visual search.


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