The transference of visual search between two unrelated tasks: Measuring the temporal characteristics of carry-over

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Authors: Thompson, C., Howting, L. and Hills, P.

Journal: Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology

Volume: 68

Issue: 11

Pages: 2255-2273

eISSN: 1747-0226

ISSN: 1747-0218

DOI: 10.1080/17470218.2015.1013042

© 2015 The Experimental Psychology Society. Investigations into the persistence of top-down control settings do not accurately reflect the nature of dynamic tasks. They typically involve extended practice with an initial task, and this initial task usually shares similar stimuli with a second task. Recent work shows that visual attention and search can be affected by limited exposure to a preceding, unrelated task, and the current study explored the temporal characteristics of this “carry-over” effect. Thirty-four participants completed one, four, or eight simple letter searches and then searched a natural scene. The spatial layout of letters influenced spread of search in the pictures, and this was further impacted by the time spent in the initial task, yet the carry-over effect diminished quickly. The results have implications for theories of top-down control and models that attempt to predict search in natural scenes. They are also relevant to real-world tasks in which performance is closely related to visual attention and search.

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