Dwelling on simple stimuli in visual search

  • Gernot HorstmannEmail author
  • Stefanie I. Becker
  • Anna Grubert
40 Years of Feature Integration: Special Issue in Memory of Anne Treisman


Research and theories on visual search often focus on visual guidance to explain differences in search. Guidance is the tuning of attention to target features and facilitates search because distractors that do not show target features can be more effectively ignored (skipping). As a general rule, the better the guidance is, the more efficient search is. Correspondingly, behavioral experiments often interpreted differences in efficiency as reflecting varying degrees of attentional guidance. But other factors such as the time spent on processing a distractor (dwelling) or multiple visits to the same stimulus in a search display (revisiting) are also involved in determining search efficiency. While there is some research showing that dwelling and revisiting modulate search times in addition to skipping, the corresponding studies used complex naturalistic and category-defined stimuli. The present study tests whether results from prior research can be generalized to more simple stimuli, where target-distractor similarity, a strong factor influencing search performance, can be manipulated in a detailed fashion. Thus, in the present study, simple stimuli with varying degrees of target-distractor similarity were used to deliver conclusive evidence for the contribution of dwelling and revisiting to search performance. The results have theoretical and methodological implications: They imply that visual search models should not treat dwelling and revisiting as constants across varying levels of search efficiency and that behavioral search experiments are equivocal with respect to the responsible processing mechanisms underlying more versus less efficient search. We also suggest that eye-tracking methods may be used to disentangle different search components such as skipping, dwelling, and revisiting.


Attention: Selective visual search Eye movements and visual attention 



This work was supported by the Cluster of Excellence – Cognitive Interaction Technology ‘CITEC’ (EXC 277) at Bielefeld University, which is funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG), and by DFG grant HO 3248/2-1 to Gernot Horstmann.


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Copyright information

© The Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gernot Horstmann
    • 1
    Email author
  • Stefanie I. Becker
    • 2
  • Anna Grubert
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyBielefeld UniversityBielefeldGermany
  2. 2.University of QueenslandSt LuciaAustralia
  3. 3.Durham UniversityDurhamUK

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