Bottom-up and top-down control in visual search

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  • Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam


Previous research suggests that the allocation of attention is largely controlled either in a stimulus-driven or in a goal-driven manner. To date, few studies have systematically manipulated variables affecting stimulus-driven and goal-driven selection independently in order to investigate how both manners of control interrelate and affect performance in visual search, In the present study observers were presented with search displays consisting of an array of line segments rotated at various orientations. The task of observers was to indicate the presence or absence of a vertical line segment (the target) presented amongst a series of nontargets and possibly one distractor. By varying the absolute differences in orientation between the target, nontargets, and distractors, relative target-distractor salience and target-distractor similarity were independently manipulated to investigate the contribution of stimulus-driven and goal-driven control. The major result was that relative target-distractor salience and target-distractor similarity affected search performance independently. Performance was better in cases where the irrelevant distractor was not a salient item in the search display and did not look similar to the target. The results are discussed in terms of models of attentional control.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)927-937
Number of pages11
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 8 Nov 2004