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J Exp Psychol Hum Percept Perform. 1992 May;18(2):578-88; discussion 589-93.

Beyond the search surface: visual search and attentional engagement.

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Medical Research Council Applied Psychology Unit, Cambridge, United Kingdom.


Treisman (1991) described a series of visual search studies testing feature integration theory against an alternative (Duncan & Humphreys, 1989) in which feature and conjunction search are basically similar. Here the latter account is noted to have 2 distinct levels: (a) a summary of search findings in terms of stimulus similarities, and (b) a theory of how visual attention is brought to bear on relevant objects. Working at the 1st level, Treisman found that even when similarities were calibrated and controlled, conjunction search was much harder than feature search. The theory, however, can only really be tested at the 2nd level, because the 1st is an approximation. An account of the findings is developed at the 2nd level, based on the 2 processes of input-template matching and spreading suppression. New data show that, when both of these factors are controlled, feature and conjunction search are equally difficult. Possibilities for unification of the alternative views are considered.

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