A Drastic Change in Background Luminance or Motion Degrades the Preview Benefit

Front Psychol. 2017 Jul 24:8:1252. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2017.01252. eCollection 2017.


When some distractors (old items) precede some others (new items) in an inefficient visual search task, the search is restricted to new items, and yields a phenomenon termed the preview benefit. It has recently been demonstrated that, in this preview search task, the onset of repetitive changes in the background disrupts the preview benefit, whereas a single transient change in the background does not. In the present study, we explored this effect with dynamic background changes occurring in the context of realistic scenes, to examine the robustness and usefulness of visual marking. We examined whether preview benefit in a preview search task survived through task-irrelevant changes in the scene, namely a luminance change and the initiation of coherent motion, both occurring in the background. Luminance change of the background disrupted preview benefit if it was synchronized with the onset of the search display. Furthermore, although the presence of coherent background motion per se did not affect preview benefit, its synchronized initiation with the onset of the search display did disrupt preview benefit if the motion speed was sufficiently high. These results suggest that visual marking can be destroyed by a transient event in the scene if that event is sufficiently drastic.

Keywords: background change; inhibition; preview benefit; preview search; visual marking.