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Spatial interactions in rapid pattern discrimination

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

We measured reaction times (RTs) for identification of a target among distracters under stabilized image conditions in which the positions of the target and the distracters were constant within a single experimental session. Under these conditions, the observer need not search for the target because its position is known. We nevertheless found that the presence of even a single distracter could elevate RTs. The magnitude of this effect depended on the distance of the distracter from the target and, for some observers, the distance of the distracter from the fovea. When we added not one but six background elements in a ring around the target, RT increased even more. If, apart from these neighboring distracters, the target was surrounded by more distracters located beyond the nearest neighbors, RT was, in general, not increased further. These findings suggest that adding background elements in a search task can elevate RTs in ways that are not dependent on the positional uncertainty of the target.

Affiliations: 1: California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA 91125, USA; 2: Visual Sciences Program, SRI International, Menlo Park, CA 94025, USA


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