Visual search in scenes involves selective and nonselective pathways

Trends Cogn Sci. 2011 Feb;15(2):77-84. doi: 10.1016/j.tics.2010.12.001. Epub 2011 Jan 10.


How does one find objects in scenes? For decades, visual search models have been built on experiments in which observers search for targets, presented among distractor items, isolated and randomly arranged on blank backgrounds. Are these models relevant to search in continuous scenes? This article argues that the mechanisms that govern artificial, laboratory search tasks do play a role in visual search in scenes. However, scene-based information is used to guide search in ways that had no place in earlier models. Search in scenes might be best explained by a dual-path model: a 'selective' path in which candidate objects must be individually selected for recognition and a 'nonselective' path in which information can be extracted from global and/or statistical information.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Discrimination, Psychological / physiology*
  • Exploratory Behavior / physiology
  • Eye Movements / physiology
  • Humans
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual / physiology*
  • Problem Solving*
  • Visual Pathways / physiology*
  • Visual Perception / physiology*