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Spatial context and top-down strategies in visual search

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image of Spatial Vision
For more content, see Multisensory Research and Seeing and Perceiving.

Marvin M. Chun and Yuhong Jiang (1998) investigated the role of spatial context on visual search. They used two display conditions. In the Old Display condition, the spatial arrangement of items in the search display was kept constant throughout the experiment. In the New Display condition, the spatial arrangement of items was always novel from trial to trial. The results showed better performance with Old Displays than with New Displays. The authors proposed that repeated spatial context help guiding attention to the target location, thus they termed this effect Contextual Cueing. We present three attempts to reproduce this effect. Experiments 1 and 2 were near exact replications of experiments in Chun and Jiang's report, where we failed to obtain Contextual Cueing. Post-experimental interviews revealed that participants used different search strategies when performing the task: an 'active' strategy (an active effort to find the target), or a 'passive' strategy (intuitive search). In Experiment 3, we manipulated task instructions to bias participants into using active or passive strategies. A robust Contextual Cueing Effect was obtained only in the passive instruction condition.


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