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Intertrial priming stemming from ambiguity: A new account of priming in visual search

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Sequential effects are ubiquitous in experimental psychology. Within visual search, performance is often speeded when participants search for the same target twice in a row, as opposed to two different targets. Here, we investigate such intertrial priming. Two experiments show that factors influencing search processes affect the presence and size of intertrial priming: It is larger when there are fewer elements in the visual display, and larger when there is a salient distractor present than when the target is the only salient element in the display. A control experiment showed that these increased priming effects were not due to longer baseline RTs. These findings, it is argued, are inconsistent with theories that explain intertrial priming as resulting from either only faster visual selection, or from episodic retrieval of responses. Instead, we propose that ambiguity in the stimulus or task underlies the occurrence of intertrial priming.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of Cognitive Psychology, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Publication date: January 1, 2006


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