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J Exp Psychol Hum Percept Perform. 2010 Jun;36(3):515-32. doi: 10.1037/a0017448.

Contextual cueing in multiconjunction visual search is dependent on color- and configuration-based intertrial contingencies.

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Department Psychologie, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, Leopoldstrasse 13, 80802 München, Germany.


Three experiments examined memory-based guidance of visual search using a modified version of the contextual-cueing paradigm (Jiang & Chun, 2001). The target, if present, was a conjunction of color and orientation, with target (and distractor) features randomly varying across trials (multiconjunction search). Under these conditions, reaction times (RTs) were faster when all items in the display appeared at predictive ("old") relative to nonpredictive ("new") locations. However, this RT benefit was smaller compared to when only one set of items, namely that sharing the target's color (but not that in the alternative color) appeared in predictive arrangement. In all conditions, contextual cueing was reliable on both target-present and -absent trials and enhanced if a predictive display was preceded by a predictive (though differently arranged) display, rather than a nonpredictive display. These results suggest that (1) contextual cueing is confined to color subsets of items, that (2) retrieving contextual associations for one color subset of items can be impeded by associations formed within the alternative subset ("contextual interference"), and (3) that contextual cueing is modulated by intertrial priming.

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