"Transient structures": The effects of practice and distractor grouping on within-dimension conjunction searches

Marisa Carrasco, Dolores Ponte, Cristina Rechea, María José Sampedro

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


It has been stated that whereas between-dimension (color x orientation) conjunctions can be searched in a "parallel" fashion, within-dimension (color x color) conjunctions are necessarily searched in a "serial self-terminating" fashion (Wolfe et al., 1990). We explored the effects of practice (within 1-h experimental session) and distractor grouping on within-dimension conjunction search tasks. In Experiments 1 and 3, the stimuli were rectangles formed by two adjacent squares; in Experiment 2, the stimuli were plus signs formed by two segments and an intersection. In Experiments 1 and 2, observers were assigned to one of two experimental conditions: In one, all the distractors shared a simple feature (the color blue); in the other, distractors did not share that simple feature. In the first condition, search became more efficient with practice and observers' performance was characterized by a shallow reaction time (RT) X set size slope; in the second condition, observers' performance did not improve as much with practice. We propose that the differential effects of practice between these two experimental conditions can be explained in terms of distractor grouping induced by the shared color of the distractors. Experiment 3 showed that, with practice, a shallow RT x set size slope characterized observers' search for a color x color target among four different distractors that shared a common color. The present results contradict a main tenet of some current visual search models -namely, that within-dimension conjunctions cannot be searched in parallel, and question the validity of using RT x set size slope functions to distinguish between preattentive versus attentive search.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1243-1258
Number of pages16
JournalPerception and Psychophysics
Issue number7
StatePublished - Oct 1998

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • General Psychology
  • Sensory Systems


Dive into the research topics of '"Transient structures": The effects of practice and distractor grouping on within-dimension conjunction searches'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this