Goal-Directed Guidance of Attention: Evidence from Conjunctive Visual Search

William F. Bacon, Howard E. Egeth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

83 Scopus citations


Conjunctive visual search is most difficult when distractor types are in equal proportions and gets easier as the proportions diverge (e.g., E. Zohary & S. Hochstein, 1989). This may reflect restriction of search to the feature shared by the target and the less-frequent distractor. Alternatively, such effects could reflect target salience, which varies with distractor ratio. In 2 experiments, 60 participants searched 64-element displays for a conjunctive target among distractors of 2 types in various proportions. Participants were correctly informed (Experiment 1) or misinformed (Experiment 2) about which distractor type would be less frequent on most trials. In both experiments, the distractor-ratio effect was significantly influenced by the information provided to participants. These findings demonstrate the efficacy of top-down information in guiding attention and show that it can be applied flexibly, weighted toward particular target features.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)948-961
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 1997
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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