Academic journal article Perception and Psychophysics

Does Training under Consistent Mapping Conditions Lead to Automatic Attention Attraction to Targets in Search Tasks?

Academic journal article Perception and Psychophysics

Does Training under Consistent Mapping Conditions Lead to Automatic Attention Attraction to Targets in Search Tasks?

Article excerpt

Schneider and Shiffrin (1977) proposed that training under consistent stimulus-response mapping (CM) leads to automatic target detection in search tasks. Other theories, such as Treisman and Gelade's (1980) feature integration theory, consider target-distractor discriminability as the main determinant of search performance. The first two experiments pit these two principles against each other. The results show that CM training is neither necessary nor sufficient to achieve optimal search performance. Two other experiments examine whether CM trained targets, presented as distractors in unattended display locations, attract attention away from current targets. The results are again found to vary with target-distractor similarity. Overall, the present study strongly suggests that CM training does not invariably lead to automatic attention attraction in search tasks.

In two seminal articles, Schneider and Shiffrin (1977; Shiffrin & Schneider, 1977)1 argued that training under consistent mapping conditions leads to automatic attention attraction by the targets in search tasks. In the present study, we test whether this idea is truly grounded in empirical facts.

All experiments involved the single-frame version of the classical visual-memory search task. In such a task, participants have to commit to memory a set of one or more items-the memory (M) set-and to search for the presence of any of these potential targets in a single visual display containing one or more elements-display (D) set-some of which serve as distractors. Consistency of stimulus-response mapping is achieved by selecting the stimuli serving as targets versus distractors from disjoint ensembles. For instance, in Schneider and Shiffrin's (1977) Experiment 2, some participants had to search for one or more digits among a set of consonants. So, whenever a digit was present in the display, it was also a member of the M set and the correct response was "yes." For these participants, digits were consistently mapped onto positive responses over trials, as were consonants for the participants who had to search for consonants among digits. The basic finding, which has been replicated often since Schneider and Shiffrin's study, is that, after extensive training under consistent mapping (CM) conditions, response times (RTs) tend to become independent of the number of items in the M and the D sets.

Schneider and Shiffrin (1977) contrasted performance obtained in CM conditions to that obtained in conditions where stimulus-response mapping was varied. The stimuli used in the varied mapping (VM) conditions were either all digits or all consonants, depending on the participants. The targets and distractors were chosen randomly over trials, so that a given stimulus was associated to a positive response on some trials and to a negative response on others. The performance obtained in VM conditions showed little improvement, in the sense that search times remained largely dependent on both the number of potential targets (i.e., M set size), and the number of characters on the display (i.e., D set size), these two factors interacting with each other. Such interactive size effects were taken as indicative of limited-capacity search.

Shiffrin and Schneider (1977) argued that the flat display search slopes obtained after extensive CM training were attributable to the fact that targets come to automatically attract attention to themselves and away from the distractors. There are several reasons to doubt the validity of S&S's conclusion. First, as noted by Cheng (1985), many of Schneider and Shiffrin's (1977) and Shiffrin & Schneider's (1977) experiments involved a confound of a categorical nature. For instance, in the CM condition of the experiment just described, since the targets and distractors belonged to two distinct and well-known categories, digits and consonants, the results obtained in such conditions can be attributed to this categorical distinction as much as to consistent mapping. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.