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Vision Res. 2001 Dec;41(27):3763-73.

Eye movements and familiarity effects in visual search.

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Psychology Department, University of Detroit Mercy, Box 19900, Detroit, MI 48219-0900, USA.


Familiarity with the distractors around an unfamiliar target facilitates visual search. Three Experiments examined whether the effect occurs because fixations are (a) shorter and fewer, (b) shorter, but more abundant, (c) equally long, but fewer, or (d) longer, but fewer when distractors are familiar. Results indicated comparably long, but fewer fixations when distractors are familiar. Hence, the theory that unfamiliar distractors need longer processing is discounted. In a fourth Experiment, a gaze-contingent moving window paradigm was used to control peripheral processing. Results revealed a wider span of effective processing for familiar distractors. A hypothesis based on low-level physiological processes is introduced to account for the familiarity effect.

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