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Visual search for apparent-length targets is modulated by the Müller-Lyer illusion

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

Is apparent object size represented in pre-attentive vision and can it influence visual search for size-defined targets in a spatially parallel manner? This question was investigated, using the Müller-Lyer illusion. Observers searched for a target line that was longer than the distractor lines. Test lines could be presented without context arrows (control); be adjoined by obtuse-angle context arrows (arrow heads pointing inward), making the lines appear longer; or by acute-angle arrows (heads pointing outward), making the lines appear shorter. These apparent-length modulations were larger for the target than for the distractor lines, thereby increasing and, respectively, decreasing the target– distractor length contrast. In line with these changes in contrast, target detection was found to be expedited by obtuse-angle arrows and impeded by acute-angle arrows, independently of the number of elements in the display. This finding provides further evidence for the pre-attentive processing of apparent object size.


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