Graded prioritisation of targets in search: Reward diminishes the low prevalence effect

Veronika Hadjipanayi*, Casimir J H Ludwig, Chris Kent

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review


In many real-life contexts, observers are required to search for targets that are rarely present (e.g. tumours in X-rays; dangerous items in airport security screenings). Despite the rarity of these items, they are of enormous importance for the health and safety of the public yet, they are easily missed during visual search. This is referred to as the prevalence effect. In the current series of experiments, we investigate whether unequal reward can modulate the prevalence effect, in a multiple target search task. Having first established the impact of prevalence (Experiment 1) and reward (Experiment 2) on how efficiently participants can find one of several targets in the current paradigm, we then combined the two forms of priority to investigate their interaction. An unequal reward distribution (where lower prevalence items are more rewarded; Experiment 3), was found to diminish the effect of prevalence, compared to an equal reward distribution (Experiment 4) as indicated by faster response times and fewer misses. These findings suggest that when combined with an unequal reward distribution, the low prevalence effect can be diminished.
Original languageEnglish
Article number52
JournalCognitive Research: Principles and Implications
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 4 Aug 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding for these two experiments was provided by the PhD Research budget of the corresponding author VH.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023, The Psychonomic Society.

Structured keywords

  • Cognitive Science
  • Visual Perception


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