Send to

Choose Destination
Cognition. 2002 Aug;85(1):37-52.

The role of priming in conjunctive visual search.

Author information

Vision Sciences Laboratory, Department of Psychology, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, USA.


To assess the role of priming in conjunctive visual search tasks, we systematically varied the consistency of the target and distractor identity between different conditions. Search was fastest in the standard conjunctive search paradigm where identities remained constant. Search was slowest when potential target identity varied predictably for each successive trial (the 'switch' condition). The role of priming was also demonstrated on a trial-by-trial basis in a 'streak' condition where target and distractor identity was unpredictable yet was consistent within streaks. When the target to be found was the same for a few trials in a row, search performance became similar to that when the potential target was the same on all trials. A similar pattern was found for the target absent trials, suggesting that priming is based on the whole search array rather than just the target in each case. Further analysis indicated that the effects of priming are sufficiently strong to account for the advantage seen for the conjunctive search task. We conclude that the role of priming in visual search is underestimated in current theories of visual search and that differences in search times often attributed to top-down guidance may instead reflect the benefits of priming.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Elsevier Science
Loading ...
Support Center