Effects of top-down guidance and singleton priming on visual search Academic Article uri icon


  • Recent literature suggests that observers can use advance knowledge of the target feature to guide their search but fail to do so whenever the target is reliably a singleton. Instead, they engage in singletondetection mode—that is, they search for the most salient object. In the present study, we aimed to test the notion of a default salience-based search mode. Using several measures, we compared search for a known target when it is always a singleton (fixed-singleton search) relative to when it is incidentally a singleton (multiple-target search). We examined the relative contributions of strategic factors (knowledge that the target is a singleton) and intertrial repetition effects (singleton priming, or the advantage of responding to a singleton target if the target on the previous trial had also been a singleton). In two experiments, singleton priming eliminated all the differences in performance between fixed-singleton and multiple-target search, suggesting that search for a known singleton may be feature based rather than salience based.

publication date

  • January 1, 2006