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Flexible target representations underlie repetition priming in visual search

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Repeating target features across consecutive visual search trials can influence response time. Three experiments are reported that show that this repetition priming is dependent on the exact stimulus configuration and feature type. In Experiment 1 the target was defined relative to distractors by its orientation and target colour was task irrelevant. The roles played by these features were reversed in Experiment 2. Repeating target colour across trials speeded responses in both Experiments 1 and 2. Repeating orientation significantly slowed responses in Experiment 1 but had no significant effect in Experiment 2. Existing feature-based and episodic memory-based explanations of priming cannot account for these data, but instead more flexible explanations are required. Experiment 3 showed that significant positive priming results from repeating distractor-defining orientation, indicating that priming of pop-out effects previously reported in the literature may result from combined target and distractor effects.
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Keywords: Colour; Feature Type; Orientation; Repetition priming; Visual search

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Experimental Psychology, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK

Publication date: 01 May 2009

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