, Volume 57, Issue 8, pp 1241-1261

The eccentricity effect: Target eccentricity affects performance on conjunction searches


The serial pattern found for conjunction visual-search tasks has been attributed to covert attentional shifts, even though the possible contributions of target location have not been considered. To investigate the effect of target location on orientation × color conjunction searches, the target’s duration and its position in the display were manipulated. The display was present either until observers responded (Experiment 1), for 104 msec (Experiment 2), or for 62 msec (Experiment 3). Target eccentricity critically affected performance: A pronounced eccentricity effect was very similar for all three experiments; as eccentricity increased, reaction times and errors increased gradually. Furthermore, the set-size effect became more pronounced as target eccentricity increased, and the extent of the eccentricity effect increased for larger set sizes. In addition, according to stepwise regressions, target eccentricity as well as its interaction with set size were good predictors of performance. We suggest that these findings could be explained by spatial-resolution and lateral-inhibition factors. The serial self-terminating hypothesis for orientation × color conjunction searches was evaluated and rejected. We compared the eccentricity effect as well as the extent of the orientation asymmetry in these three conjunction experiments with those found in feature experiments (Carrasco & Katz, 1992). The roles of eye movements, spatial resolution, and covert attention in the eccentricity effect, as well as their implications, are discussed.

This study was supported by the National Science Foundation (NYI Grant SBR-9357986), by an AAUW American Fellowship to M.C., and by Ford summer grants to I.C. and S.M.K. Parts of this study were presented at the 32nd meeting of the Psychonomic Society, November 1991, and at the 16th European Conference on Visual Perception, August 1993.