Refixation Frequency and memory mechanisms in visual search

Gilchrist, I.D. and Harvey, M. (2000) Refixation Frequency and memory mechanisms in visual search. Current Biology, 10(19), pp. 1209-1212.

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Visual search-looking for a target object in the presence of a number of distractor items-is an everyday activity for humans (for example, finding the car in a busy car park) and animals (for example, foraging for food). Our understanding of visual search has been enriched by an interdisciplinary effort using a wide range of research techniques including behavioural studies in humans [1], single-cell electrophysiology [2], transcranial magnetic stimulation [3], event-related potentials [4] and studies of patients with focal brain injury [5]. A central question is what kind of information controls the search process. Visual search is typically accompanied by a series of eye movements, and investigating the nature and location of fixations helps to identify the kind of information that might control the search process. It has already been demonstrated that objects are fixated if they are visually similar to the target [6]. Also, if an item has been fixated, it is less likely to be returned to on the subsequent saccade. This automatic process is referred to as inhibition of return (IOR [7,8]). Here, we investigated the role of memory for which items had been fixated previously. We found that, during search, subjects often refixated items that had been previously fixated. Although there were fewer return saccades than would be expected by chance, the number of refixations indicated limited functional memory, indeed the memory effects that were present may primarily be a result of IOR.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Harvey, Professor Monika
Authors: Gilchrist, I.D., and Harvey, M.
College/School:College of Science and Engineering > School of Psychology
Journal Name:Current Biology

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