Guidance toward and away from distractors in repeated visual search

Margit Höfler*, Iain D Gilchrist, Christof J Koerner

*Corresponding author for this work

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

4 Citations (Scopus)
312 Downloads (Pure)


When searching for two targets consecutively in the same display, participants use memory of recently fixated distractors that become the target in the second search to find that target more quickly. Here we ask whether participants are also using memory for fixated distractors that do not become the target. In Experiment 1 we show that search is faster overall in the second search regardless of whether or not the second search target was fixated in the first search. We replicate this effect in Experiment 2 for different display sizes and further show that the effect is a result of the prioritization of locations that are more likely to contain the target. This suggests that representations of the fixated distractor items are retained across the two searches and that these representations can be used flexibly to optimize search performance. Furthermore, this suggests that the short-term memory processes that support search across consecutive searches not only facilitate guidance toward the target but also allow distractors to be excluded from the search process.

Original languageEnglish
Article number12
Pages (from-to)12
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Vision
Issue number5
Early online date21 Apr 2015
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2015

Structured keywords

  • Cognitive Science
  • Visual Perception


  • Attention
  • Eye movements
  • Short-term memory
  • Visual search

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