Searching for conjunctively defined targets

Howard E. Egeth, Robert A. Virzi, Hadley Garbart

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A. M. Treisman and G. Gelade (see record 1980-04685-001) proposed that in searching for a target defined as a conjunction of 2 or more separable features, attention must be paid serially to each stimulus in a display. Support for this comes from studies in which Ss searched for a target that shared a single feature with each of 2 different kinds of distractor items (e.g., a red O in a field of black O's and red N's). RT increased linearly with display size. It is argued that this design may obscure evidence of selectivity in search. The present 2 experiments, with 24 undergraduates, were modeled after the experiment by Treisman et al (1977) with the exception that the numbers of the 2 distractors were unconfounded. Results indicate that Ss can search through specified subsets of stimuli. For example, Ss told to search through just the O's to find the red O's target do so without searching through N's. It appears that figure-ground segregations may occur when there is a large asymmetry in the number of 2 distractor types, with all of the elements forming the ground being rejected in parallel. (12 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)32-39
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1984


  • G. Gelade's serial processing theory
  • relative number of different distractor types, attentional selectivity in visual search, college students, test of A. M. Treisman &

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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