Priming of pop-out: I. Role of features

Mem Cognit. 1994 Nov;22(6):657-72. doi: 10.3758/bf03209251.


We examined a visual search task, in which observers responded to the high-acuity aspect of a pop-out target (shape of an odd-colored diamond or vernier offset of an odd spatial-frequency patch). Repetition of the attention-driving feature (color or spatial frequency) in this task primes the pop-out; repetition of the high-acuity aspect (shape, vernier offset) does not. Priming of pop-out is due to a decaying memory trace of the attention-focusing feature laid down with each trial. The trace exerts a diminishing effect over the following five to eight trials (approximately 30 sec), and its influence over this time is cumulative. Observers cannot wilfully overcome the priming, which suggests that it is passive and autonomous. Both target facilitation and distractor inhibition are evident; the former has a greater effect. The phenomenon shows complete binocular transfer.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Attention
  • Color Perception
  • Form Perception
  • Humans
  • Memory, Short-Term
  • Reaction Time
  • Visual Acuity
  • Visual Perception*