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Top-up search and the attentional blink: A two-stage account of the preview effect in search

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An inefficient visual search task can be facilitated if half the distractor items are presented as a preview prior to the presentation of the remaining distractor items and target. This benefit in search is termed the preview effect . Recent research has found that a preview effect can still occur if the previewed items disappear before reappearing again just before the search items (the “top-up” procedure). In this paper we investigate the attentional demands of processing during the preview and the top-up periods. Experiment 1 found that if attention is withdrawn from the top-up stage then no preview effect occurs. Likewise if attention is withdrawn from the initial preview period then the preview effect is reduced (Experiment 2). The data suggest that the preview effect is dependent on attention being paid both to the initial display and also to the re-presentation of the old display before the search display appears. The data counter accounts of preview search in terms of automatic attention capture by new items or by inhibition of return. We discuss alternative accounts of the results, and in particular suggest an amalgamation of a temporal grouping and a visual marking account of preview search.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Visual Attention Laboratory, Cambridge, MA, USA 2: School of Psychology, University of Wales, Bangor, UK 3: Behavioural Brain Sciences Centre, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK

Publication date: April 1, 2006


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