Perception & Psychophysics

, Volume 70, Issue 7, pp 1366–1378

The role of color in visual search in real-world scenes: Evidence from contextual cuing


DOI: 10.3758/PP.70.7.1366

Cite this article as:
Ehinger, K.A. & Brockmole, J.R. Perception & Psychophysics (2008) 70: 1366. doi:10.3758/PP.70.7.1366


Because the importance of color in visual tasks such as object identification and scene memory has been debated, we sought to determine whether color is used to guide visual search in contextual cuing with real-world scenes. In Experiment 1, participants searched for targets in repeated scenes that were shown in one of three conditions: natural colors, unnatural colors that remained consistent across repetitions, and unnatural colors that changed on every repetition. We found that the pattern of learning was the same in all three conditions. In Experiment 2, we did a transfer test in which the repeating scenes were shown in consistent colors that suddenly changed on the last block of the experiment. The color change had no effect on search times, relative to a condition in which the colors did not change. In Experiments 3 and 4, we replicated Experiments 1 and 2, using scenes from a color-diagnostic category of scenes, and obtained similar results. We conclude that color is not used to guide visual search in real-world contextual cuing, a finding that constrains the role of color in scene identification and recognition processes.

Copyright information

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Massachusetts Institute of TechnologyCambridge
  2. 2.Psychology DepartmentUniversity of EdinburghEdinburghScotland

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