Target-to-distractor similarity can help visual search performance


We found an unexpected positive effect of target-to-distractor similarity (TD) in a visual search task, despite overwhelming evidence in the literature that TD similarity hurts visual search performance. Participants with no prior knowledge of Chinese performed 9 hour-long sessions over 4 weeks, where they had to find a briefly presented target character among a set of distractors. At the beginning of the experiment, TD similarity hurt performance, but the effect reversed during the first session and remained positive throughout the remaining sessions. We present a simple connectionist model that accounts for that reversal of TD similarity effects on visual search and we discuss possible theoretical explanations.

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