Proactive and reactive control mechanisms in navigational search

Josie Briscoe*, Iain D Gilchrist

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)

14 Downloads (Pure)


Reactive and proactive cognitive control are fundamental for guiding complex human behaviour. In two experiments, we evaluated the role of both types of cognitive control in navigational search. Participants searched for a single hidden target in a floor array where the salience at the search locations varied (flashing or static lights). An a-priori rule of the probable location of the target (either under a static or a flashing light) was provided at the start of each experiment. Both experiments demonstrated a bias towards rule-adherent locations. Search errors, measured as revisits, were more likely to occur under the flashing rule for searching flashing locations, regardless of the salience of target location in Experiment 1 and at rule-congruent (flashing) locations in Experiment 2. Consistent with dual mechanisms of control, rule-adherent search was explained by engaging proactive control to guide goal-maintained search behaviour and by engaging reactive control to avoid revisits to salient (flashing) locations. . Experiment 2 provided direct evidence for dual mechanisms of control using a Dot Pattern Expectancy task to distinguish the dominant control mode for a participant. Participants with a reactive control mode generated more revisits to salient (flashing) locations. These data point to complementary roles for proactive and reactive control in guiding navigational search and propose a novel framework for interpreting navigational search.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages14
JournalQuarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology
Publication statusPublished - 28 Sep 2020

Structured keywords

  • Cognitive Science


  • Navigational search
  • Proactive control
  • Reactive Control

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