The role of attention in different visual-search tasks

Percept Psychophys. 1992 May;51(5):465-72. doi: 10.3758/bf03211642.


Observers viewed displays containing a variable number of distractors of one color and a target of another color. In some experiments, the target and distractors maintained their color from trial to trial; in others, they reversed unpredictably. Observers made a speeded two-choice judgment concerning either the presence, the color, or the shape of the odd-colored target. With only one exception, all of these conditions produced the same pattern of results: reaction times remained constant as the number of distractors increased. The exceptional result occurred when observers judged the shape of the odd-colored target and the color of the target and distractors reversed unpredictably. In this case, reaction times decreased as the number of distractors increased. These results are interpreted in terms of the attentional requirements of the different judgments and the mechanisms that guide attention.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attention*
  • Color Perception*
  • Depth Perception
  • Discrimination Learning*
  • Humans
  • Orientation*
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual*
  • Psychophysics
  • Reaction Time