Long term visual associations affect attentional guidance by christian n l olivers
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Long Term Visual Associations affect Attentional Guidance By Christian N. L. Olivers. Katie, Josh, and Ellie. Past studies. Focused on what makes stimulus important Color Orientation Relevance Search template: representation of visual object one is searching for. Past studies.

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Long Term Visual Associations affect Attentional Guidance By Christian N. L. Olivers

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Long Term Visual Associations affect Attentional GuidanceBy Christian N. L. Olivers

Katie, Josh, and Ellie

Past studies

  • Focused on what makes stimulus important

    • Color

    • Orientation

    • Relevance

      • Search template: representation of visual object one is searching for

Past studies

  • Visual Short Term memory generates attentional bias towards, or against, visual search target by preactivating perceptual representations

    • Studied many times, including Oliver, et al 2006

Past Studies

  • Long-term Memory in Use as well

    • Soto and Humphreys, 2007 found that when subjects read the words “red square” prior to a visual search task, a red square distracter in the actual task would indeed slow subjects’ search time down.

Past studies

  • Moores, et al 2003 studied LTM and language-vision interaction on attentional guidance

  • Heuttig and Altman,2005

  • Allopenna et al, 1998

Present Study

  • Investigates influence of long term visual memory associations on attention set

  • If particular objects are strongly associated with a visual property (such as color), attention may be automatically guided by this property, even if it is task irrelevant.

Speed limit 50

“Speed limit 50”

  • Used written instruction in order to avoid visual cue

  • Visual cue would bring affect working memory

  • subject told to ignore color, search for shape

  • Target-related “distractor” only related in color, not in shape

  • Effect of search performance due to

    • Task irrelevant color

    • NOT task relevant shape

Manipulation #1COLOR of Distractor

  • Related to Target VS. Unrelated to Target

  • Measures impact of irrelevant, but associated visual attributes

  • Control for salience

Other Manipulations

  • Target Presence

  • SOA


  • If irrelevant but associated visual attributes automatically guide attention, then search performance should be worse when color related distractors are present.


  • Errors:

    • Only found effect of target presence

      • More misses on Target Present trials then on Target Absent trials

  • Reaction Time:

    • Slower for short SOA trials then long SOA trials

    • Slower for Target Absent trials then Target Present trials

    • ~37ms slower when color was related to target then when it was unrelated.

      • Found correlation between reaction time and driving experience, and reaction time and age


  • The experimenters believed visual properties that were irrelevant, but related, to the task at hand (i.e. color) would automatically guide attention

  • Related distractors slowed searches more than unrelated distractors

  • These results confirmed their hypothesis

  • They also have further implications


  • The results may also be immediately related to long term memory

  • When looking for a particular object, related distractors capture attention, even when it is known that they should be ignored

  • This suggests that in a search task, one must retrieve all, not part, of the desired visual search template from long term memory


  • Olivers’ results, when taken in tandem with the results gained by Bravo and Farid(2009), have even further implications to visual attention

  • We have discussed both goal-directed and stimulus-directed models of attention

  • Anderson suggested a third reward-driven model of attention

  • This model requires an object to be “learned” as a reward


  • Olivers’ findings suggest that we use learned visual properties and their relations to create search templates and facilitate our search task

  • Taken together, the results suggest that visual attention and memory is learning based

  • Associative learning

Further Research

  • Examine if the trend found by Olivers holds when more complex visual stimuli, such as shape is used as a distractor

  • One point that Olivers brought up is that participants had no true incentive to avoid the distractor

    • What if we gave them incentive?

Further Research

  • Anderson – Olivers Hybrid Experiment

    • Anderson implemented a reward-counter

    • Similar task to Olivers, but add reward-counter

    • Track observer’s eye movements

      • If their search goes quickly and directly to target, reward is increased

      • If their gaze deviates to distractor, reward decreased

  • If given incentive, can observers consciously suppress the effect Olivers discovered?

    • Or will their attempts draw increased awareness to the distractor?

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