The role of search difficulty in intertrial feature priming

Dominique Lamy*, Alon Zivony, Amit Yashar

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Previous research has shown that intertrial repetition of target and distractors task-relevant properties speeds visual search performance, an effect known as priming of pop-out (PoP). Recent accounts suggest that such priming results, at least in part, from a mechanism that speeds post-selectional, response-related processes, the marker of which is an interaction between repetition of the target and distractor features and repetition of the response from the previous trial. However, this response-based component of inter-trial priming has been elusive, and it remains unclear what its boundary conditions might be. In addition, what information is represented in the episodic memory traces that underlie the response-based component has not yet been characterized.Here, we show that the response-based component of feature priming reflects an episodic memory retrieval mechanism that is not mandatory or automatic but may be described as a heuristic that subjects sometimes use, in particular when the overall difficulty of the search task is high. In addition, we show that the conjunction of the target and distractor features forms the context that is reactivated during episodic retrieval. Finally, we show that target-distractor discriminability is an important modulator of the selection-based component. The findings are discussed within the framework of the dual-stage model of inter-trial priming (Lamy, Yashar, & Ruderman, 2010).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2099-2109
Number of pages11
JournalVision Research
Issue number19
StatePublished - 1 Oct 2011


  • Attention
  • Episodic retrieval
  • Intertrial priming
  • Priming of pop-out
  • Visual search


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