Animal Learning & Behavior

, Volume 20, Issue 3, pp 293-300

First online:

Detectability and choice during visual search: joint effects of sequential priming and discriminability

  • Patricia M. BloughAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, Brown University Email author 


Pigeons searched for symbolic targets among heterogeneous distractor items displayed on a video monitor. Phase 1 varied target identity and overall display size, thus establishing differential discriminabilities of three target symbols. Phase 2 varied the relative probability of these targets within sessions. The findings showed that reaction time was lower not only when targets were more discriminable, but also when they were relatively frequent; these effects did not depend on the discriminability of the less frequent targets. Phase 3 was similar in design but provided occasional choice trials on which two targets appeared. The birds were more likely to respond to the more frequent target on such trials only if it was also the most discriminable. The data are not consistent with certain predictions from Guilford and Dawkins’ (1987) reinterpretation of effects attributed to search images. The data indicate that detection and choice are modified jointly by priming-induced expectancies and stimulus-driven perceptual processes.