Contextual cueing in target absent trials by distractor–distractor associations.

Jeunghwan Choi, Sang Chul Chong

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1 Citation (Scopus)


Contextual cueing refers to finding a target more efficiently in repeated displays than in novel displays. However, conflicting results have been reported regarding whether target absent judgments can also be efficient in repeated displays. To resolve this controversy, we first tested 3 factors that might influence the strength of distractor–distractor associations and then investigated how such associations produced faster responses on repeated target absent trials by measuring the patterns of eye movements. The factors were the number of distractors, number of repeated configurations, and diversity of the distractors’ properties. In Experiments 1 and 2, we found that the diversity of the distractors was the only factor producing contextual cueing without a target. In Experiment 3, we recorded eye movements during a search task and found that the contextual cueing effect in the target absent condition was due to the lower number of fixations and larger mean saccadic amplitudes. Overall, these results suggest that the distractor–distractor associations, strengthened by the diversity of the distractors’ properties, widened the attentional window. This enlarged window in turn helps people to reject more distractors at once and enables them to terminate a visual search faster in repeated target absent trials. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2020 APA, all rights reserved)Public Significance Statement—People can find a target faster in repeated than novel displays. Although this effect, known as contextual cueing, is robust when the target is presented, whether it is found in repeated displays without a target is unclear. The current study tested if contextual cueing could occur in repeated displays without a target and if so, how this was possible. We found contextual cueing effects in repeated displays without a target when the properties of distractors were diverse. This result indicates that the strength of each distractor–distractor association is strong when the distractors are easily distinguishable from each other. These strongly formed distractor–distractor associations enabled people to reject more distractors at once and thus terminate a search faster.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1458-1475
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 American Psychological Association

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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