Academic journal article Attention, Perception and Psychophysics

History Effects in Visual Search for Monsters: Search Times, Choice Biases, and Liking

Academic journal article Attention, Perception and Psychophysics

History Effects in Visual Search for Monsters: Search Times, Choice Biases, and Liking

Article excerpt

Published online: 24 October 2014

© The Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2014

Abstract Repeating targets and distractors on consecutive visual search trials facilitates search performance, whereas switching targets and distractors harms search. In addition, search repetition leads to biases in free choice tasks, in that previously attended targets are more likely to be chosen than distractors. Another line of research has shown that attended items receive high liking ratings, whereas ignored distractors are rated negatively. Potential relations between the three effects are unclear, however. Here we simultaneously measured repetition benefits and switching costs for search times, choice biases, and liking ratings in color singleton visual search for "monster" shapes. We showed that if expectations from search repetition are violated, targets are liked to be less attended than otherwise. Choice biases were, on the other hand, affected by distractor repetition, but not by target/ distractor switches. Target repetition speeded search times but had little influence on choice or liking. Our findings suggest that choice biases reflect distractor inhibition, and liking reflects the conflict associated with attending to previously inhibited stimuli, while speeded search follows both target and distractor repetition. Our results support the newly proposed affective-feedback-of-hypothesis-testing account of cognition, and additionally, shed new light on the priming of visual search.

Keywords Attention . Priming . Choice bias . Liking . Preferences . Visual search

What we have recently attended to has a powerful influence over what we attend to next. The more often in a row observers attend to a visual search target containing a particular feature among distractors, the faster they will be to attend to the same target on the next trial (Kristjánsson, Ingvarsdóttir, & Teitsdóttir, 2008; Maljkovic & Nakayama, 1994; see Lamy & Kristjánsson, 2013, for a review). In addition, discrimination accuracy for brief masked displays is higher for repeated searches (Ásgeirsson, Kristjánsson, & Bundesen, 2014; Lamy, Yashar, & Ruderman, 2010; Sigurdardottir, Kristjánsson, & Driver, 2008). Furthermore, attention is so strongly drawn to previously attended targets that preceding search history can almost completely determine free choice between items (Brascamp, Blake, & Kristjánsson, 2011a).

Such findings have interesting parallels in research on preferences following search. Studies on distractor devaluation have demonstrated that previously ignored stimuli are rated lower than novel items (Fenske & Raymond, 2006; Fragopanagos et al., 2009; Goolsby et al., 2009; Kiss et al., 2007; Raymond, Fenske, & Tavassoli, 2003). For example, Goolsby et al. found that observers in a visual search task not only preferred items attended previously, but also preferred novel stimuli to distractors. If one search trial is enough to change preferences, search history may as well have affective consequences. According to the newly proposed affective-feedback-in-hypothesis-testing approach of visual cognition, our perceptual system generates hypotheses that are based on previous history of perceiving and attending (Chetverikov, 2014). According to the account, correct hypotheses are rewarded with positive affect, whereas incorrect ones are punished by negative affect. In addition to the (dis)confirmation of prediction, the strength of feedback depends on the degree of novelty of the predictions, so that novel predictions lead to stronger feedback (Chetverikov, 2014, p. 387). Otherwise, simple predictions with the highest probability of confirmation (e.g., staring at a blank wall) would result in a constant stream of positive feedback. According to this account, affect reinforces the accumulation of accurate knowledge about the world.

This proposal draws support from studies on mere exposure and familiarity (Berlyne, 1970; Bomstein, 1989; Chetverikov, 2014; Zajonc, 1980), perceptual categorization (Chetverikov & Filippova, 2014; Muth & Carbon, 2013), and visual search (Chetverikov, Jóhannesson, & Kristjánsson, 2014) that demonstrate that the accuracy of decisions may influence preferences. …

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