Repetition priming in visual search: episodic retrieval, not feature priming

Mem Cognit. 2004 Jan;32(1):12-20. doi: 10.3758/bf03195816.


Previous research has shown that when the targets of successive visual searches have features in common, response times are shorter. However, the nature of the representation underlying this priming and how priming is affected by the task remain uncertain. In four experiments, subjects searched for an odd-sized target and reported its orientation. The color of the items was irrelevant to the task. When target size was repeated from the previous trial, repetition of target color speeded the response. However, when target size was different from that in the previous trial, repetition of target color slowed responses, rather than speeding them. Our results suggest that these priming phenomena reflect the same automatic mechanism as the priming of pop-out reported by Maljkovic and Nakayama (1994). However, the crossover interaction between repetition of one feature and another rules out Maljkovic and Nakayama's (1994) theory of independent potentiation of distinct feature representations. Instead, we suggest that the priming pattern results from contact with an episodic memory representation of the previous trial.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Association Learning*
  • Attention*
  • Color*
  • Discrimination Learning
  • Humans
  • Memory, Short-Term*
  • Orientation*
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual*
  • Psychophysics
  • Reaction Time
  • Set, Psychology
  • Size Perception*