Perception & Psychophysics

, Volume 70, Issue 8, pp 1552–1557 | Cite as

Out with the old: Inhibition of old items in a preview search is limited

  • Stephen M. Emrich
  • Justin D. N. Ruppel
  • Naseem Al-Aidroos
  • Jay Pratt
  • Susanne Ferber


If some of the distractors in a visual search task are previewed prior to the presentation of the remaining distractors and the target, search time is reduced relative to when all of the items are displayed simultaneously. Here, we tested whether the ability to preferentially search new items during such a preview search is limited. We confirmed previous studies: The proportion of fixations on old items was significantly less than chance. However, the probability of fixating old locations was negatively affected by increasing the number of previewed distractors, suggesting that inhibition is limited to a small number of old items. Furthermore, the ability to inhibit old locations was limited to the first four fixations, indicating that by the fifth fixation, the resources required to sustain inhibition had been depleted. Together, these findings suggest that inhibition of old items in a preview search is a top-down mediated process dependent on capacity-limited cognitive resources.


Visual Search Task Search Display Search Slope Preview Benefit Preview Condition 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Stephen M. Emrich
    • 1
  • Justin D. N. Ruppel
    • 1
  • Naseem Al-Aidroos
    • 1
  • Jay Pratt
    • 1
  • Susanne Ferber
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada
  2. 2.Rotman Research InstituteBaycrest, TorontoCanada

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