The temporal dynamics of visual search: evidence for parallel processing in feature and conjunction searches

J Exp Psychol Hum Percept Perform. 1999 Dec;25(6):1517-39. doi: 10.1037//0096-1523.25.6.1517.


Feature and conjunction searches have been argued to delineate parallel and serial operations in visual processing. The authors evaluated this claim by examining the temporal dynamics of the detection of features and conjunctions. The 1st experiment used a reaction time (RT) task to replicate standard mean RT patterns and to examine the shapes of the RT distributions. The 2nd experiment used the response-signal speed-accuracy trade-off (SAT) procedure to measure discrimination (asymptotic detection accuracy) and detection speed (processing dynamics). Set size affected discrimination in both feature and conjunction searches but affected detection speed only in the latter. Fits of models to the SAT data that included a serial component overpredicted the magnitude of the observed dynamics differences. The authors concluded that both features and conjunctions are detected in parallel. Implications for the role of attention in visual processing are discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Attention*
  • Color Perception
  • Discrimination Learning
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Orientation
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual*
  • Psychomotor Performance
  • Reaction Time*