It has been demonstrated that color imagery can have a profound impact when generated prior to search, while at the same time, perceptual cues have a somewhat limited influence. Given this discrepancy, the present study evaluated the processes impacted by imagery and perception using a singleton search task where participants had to find an oddball colored target among homogenously colored distractors. Prior to each trial, a perceptual color was displayed or imagery was generated that could match the target, distractors, or neither item in the search array. It was revealed that color imagery led to both a larger benefit when it matched the target and a larger cost when it matched the distractors relative to perceptual cues. By parsing response times into pre-search, search, and response phases based on eye movements, it was revealed that, while imagery and perceptual cues both influenced the search phase, imagery had a significantly greater influence than perceptual cues. Further, imagery influenced pre-search and response phases as well. Overall, the present findings reveal that the influence of imagery is profound as it affects multiple processes in the vision-perception pipeline, while perception only appeared to impact search.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price includes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Baier, D., & Ansorge, U. (2019). Investigating the role of verbal templates in contingent capture by color. Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics, 86(6), 1846-1879.
Chang, S., Lewis, D. E., & Pearson, J. (2013). The functional effects of color perception and color imagery. Journal of Vision, 13(10), 1-10.
Cochrane, B. A., & Milliken, B. (2019). Imagined event-files: An interplay between imagined and perceived objects. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 26(2), 538-544.
Cochrane, B. A., & Milliken, B. (2020). The representational basis of positive and negative repetition effects. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 46(3), 252-263.
Cochrane, B. A., & Pratt, J. (2020). Re-examining Maljkovic and Nakayama (1994): Conscious expectancy does affect the Priming of Pop-out effect. Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics, 82(5), 2693-2702.
Cochrane, B. A., Ng, V., & Milliken, B. (2021). Top-down imagery overrides the influence of the selection history effects. Consciousness and Cognition. Advanced online publication. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.concog.2021.103153.
Cochrane, B. A., Ng, V., Khosla, A., & Milliken, B. (2021). Looking into the Mind’s Eye: Directed and evaluated imagery vividness modulates imagery-perception congruency effects. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review. Advanced online publication. https://doi.org/10.3758/s13423-020-01868-8
Cochrane, B. A., Nwabuike, A. A., Thomson, D. R., & Milliken, B. (2018). An imagery-induced reversal of intertrial priming in visual search. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 44(4), 572-587.
Cochrane, B. A., Siddhpuria, S., & Milliken, B. (2019). Cueing color imagery: A critical analysis of imagery-perception congruency effects. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 45(8), 1410-1421.
Cochrane, B. A., Townsend, B., Lee, R. C., Legere, J. K., Milliken, B., & Shedden, J. M. (2021). Visual imagery influences attentional guidance during visual search: behavioral and electrophysiological evidence. Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics, 83(1), 58-66.
Cochrane, B. A., Zhu, H., & Milliken, B. (2018). Strategic visual imagery and automatic priming effects in pop-out visual search. Consciousness & Cognition 65, 59-70.
Cousineau, D. (2005). Confidence intervals in within-subject design: a simpler solution to Loftus and Masson’s method. Tutorials in Quantitative Methods for Psychology, 1(1), 42-45.
Cue, X., Jeter, C. B., Yang D., Montague, & Eagleman, D. M. (2007). Vividness of mental imagery: Individual variability can be measured objectively. Vision Research, 47(4), 474-478.
Dijkstra, N., Bosch, S. E., van Gerven, M. A. J. (2017). Vividness of visual imagery depends on the neural overlap with perception in visual areas. Journal of Neuroscience, 37(5), 1367-1373.
Dijkstra, N., Bosch, S. E., & van Gerven, M. A. J. (2019). Shared neural mechanisms of visual perception and imagery. Trends in Cognitive Science, 23(5), 423-434.
Grindell, J., Liao, M. R., & Anderson, B. A. (2020). Mind’s Eye vs. Mine eye: Effects of imagery and perceptual priming on singleton search [Poster presentation]. The Object Perception, Attention, and Memory 28th Annual Meeting. (Online Conference)
Hommel, B. (2004). Event files: feature binding in and across perception and action. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 8(11), 494-500.
Kahneman, D., Treisman, A. M., & Gibbs, B. J. (1992). The reviewing of object files: object-specific integration of information. Cognitive Psychology, 24, 175-219.
Kawashima, T., & Matsumoto, E. (2017). Cognitive control of attentional guidance by visual and verbal working memory representations. Japanese Psychological Research, 59(1), 49-57.
Leonard, C. J., & Egeth, H. E. (2008). Attentional guidance in singleton search: An examination of top-down, bottom-up, and intertrial factors. Visual Cognition, 16(8), 1078-1091.
Maljkovic, V., & Nakayama, K. (1994). Priming of pop-out: I. Role of features. Memory & Cognition, 22(6), 657-672.
Maljkovic, V., & Nakayama, K. (2000). Priming of popout: III. A short-term implicit memory system beneficial for rapid target selection. Visual Cognition, 7(5), 571-595.
Morey, R. D. (2008). Confidence intervals from normalized data: A correction to Cousineau (2005). Tutorials in Quantitative Methods for Psychology, 4(2), 61-64.
Moriya, J. (2018). Visual mental imagery influences attentional guidance. Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics, 80(5), 1127-1142.
Müller, H. J., & Krummenacher, J. (2006). Locus of dimension weighting: preattentive or postselective. Visual Cognition, 14(4-8), 490-513.
Müller, H. J., Reimann, B., & Krummenacher, J. (2003). Visual search for singleton feature targets across dimensions: Stimulus- and expectancy-driven effects in dimensional weighting. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 29(5), 1021-1035.
Pearson, J., & Kosslyn, S. M. (2015). The heterogeneity of mental representations: Ending the imagery debate. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 112(33), 10089-10092.
Pearson, J., Clifford, C. W. G., & Tong, F. (2008). The functional impact of mental imagery on conscious perception. Current Biology, 13(8), 982-986.
Pearson, J., Rademaker, R. L., & Tong, F. (2011). Evaluating the Mind’s Eye: The metacognition of visual imagery. Psychological Science, 22(12), 1535-1542.
Reinhart, R. M. G., McClenahan, L. J., & Woodman, G. F. (2015). Visualizing trumps vision in training attention. Psychological Science, 26(7), 1114-1122.
Serences, J. T., & Yantis, S. (2006). Selective visual attention and perceptual coherence. Trends in Cognitive Science, 10(1), 38-45.
Sherwood, R., & Pearson, J. (2010). Closing the mind’s eye: Incoming luminance signals disrupt visual imagery. PLoS One, 5(12), e15217.
Soto, D., Heinke, D., Humphreys, G. W., & Blanco, M. J. (2005). Early involuntary top-down guidance of attention from working memory. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 31(2), 248-261.
Soto, D., Hodsoil, J., Rotshtein, P., & Humphreys, G. W. (2008). Automatic guidance of attention from working memory. Trends in Cognitive Science, 12(9), 342-348.
Soto, D., Humphreys, G. W., & Heinke, D. (2006). Working memory can guide pop-out search. Vision Research, 46(6-7), 1010-1018.
Theeuwes, J., Reimann, B., & Mortier, K. (2006). Visual search for featural singletons: No top-down modulation, only bottom-up priming. Visual Cognition, 14(4-8), 466-489.
Van Selst, M., & Jolicoeur, P. (1994). A solution to the effect of sample size on outlier elimination. The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 47(3), 631-650.
Wantz, A. L., Borst, G., Mast, F. W., & Lobmaier, J. S. (2015). Colors in mind: a novel paradigm to investigate pure color imagery. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition 41(4), 1152-1161.
Wolfe, J. M. (2014). Approaches to visual search: Feature integration theory and guided search. In Nobre & S. Kastner (Eds.), The Oxford handbook of attention (pp. 11-55). Oxford University Press.
Wolfe, J. M. (1994). Guided search 2.0 a revised model of visual search. Psychonomic Bulletin, & Review, 1(2), 202-238.
Wolfe, J. M., Horowitz, T. S., Kenner, N., Hyle, M.F & Vasan, N. (2004). How fast can you change your mind? The speed of top-down guidance in visual search. Vision Research, 44, 1411-1426.
Woodman, G. F., & Luck, S. J. (2007). Do the contents of visual working memory automatically influence attentional selection during visual search? Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 33(2), 363-377.
Zhou, G., Liu, Q., Jiao, J., Zhou, P., Li, H., & Sun, H. J. (2012). Dual-state modulation of the contextual cueing effect: Evidence from eye movement recordings. Journal of Vision, 12(6), 1-13.
Financial support for this study was provided by Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada Discovery Grants awarded to Bruce Milliken and Jay Pratt. The funding agreement ensured the authors’ independence in designing the study, interpreting the data, writing, and publishing the report. The authors report no conflicts of interest.
Open Practices Statement
The experiments reported in this article were not preregistered. The data for all experiments are publicly available at the Center of Open Science website (osf.io/xn97e). Requests for materials can be sent via email to the corresponding author at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
About this article
Cite this article
Cochrane, B.A., Wang, C., Pratt, J. et al. Comparing imagery and perception: Using eye movements to dissociate mechanisms in search. Atten Percept Psychophys 83, 2879–2890 (2021). https://doi.org/10.3758/s13414-021-02336-8
- Attention capture
- Eye movements
- Visual search