Contextual cueing in preview search

Yi Ni Toh, Caitlin Sisk, Yuhong V. Jiang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Frequently finding a target in the same location within a familiar context reduces search time, relative to search for objects appearing in novel contexts. This learned association between a context and a target location requires several blocks of training and has long-term effects. Short-term selection history also influences search, where previewing a subset of a search context shortly before the appearance of the target and remaining distractors speeds search. Here we explored the interactions between contextual cueing and preview benefit using a modified version of a paradigm from Hodsoll and Humphreys (Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 31(6), 1346–1358, 2005). Participants searched for a T target among L distractors. Half of the distractors appeared 800 ms before the addition of the other distractors and the target. We independently manipulated the repetition of the previewed distractors and the newly added distractors. Though the previewed set never contained the target, repetition of either the previewed or the newly added context yielded contextual cueing, and the effect was greater when the previewed context repeated. Another experiment trained participants to associate the previewed context with a target location, then disrupted the association in a testing phase. This disruption eliminated contextual cueing, suggesting that learning of the previewed context was associative. These findings demonstrate an important interaction between distinct kinds of selection history effects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2862-2875
Number of pages14
JournalAttention, Perception, and Psychophysics
Issue number6
StatePublished - Aug 1 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank Roger Remington, Melina Kunar, Thomas Geyer, and an anonymous reviewer for comments and suggestions. CAS was supported by an NSF graduate fellowship.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020, The Psychonomic Society, Inc.

Copyright 2020 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Memory
  • Selective attention
  • Visual search

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article


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