Fixed-target efficient search has logarithmic efficiency with and without eye movements

Gavin Jun Peng Ng, Alejandro Lleras, Simona Buetti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Stage 1 processing in visual search (e.g., efficient search) has long been thought to be unaffected by factors such as set size or lure–distractor similarity (or at least to be only minimally affected). Recent research from Buetti, Cronin, Madison, Wang, and Lleras (Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 145, 672–707, 2016) showed that in efficient visual search with a fixed target, reaction times increase logarithmically as a function of set size and, further, that the slope of these logarithmic functions is modulated by target–distractor similarity. This has led to the proposal that the cognitive architecture of Stage 1 processing is parallel, of unlimited capacity, and exhaustive in nature. Such an architecture produces reaction time functions that increase logarithmically with set size (as opposed to being unaffected by it). However, in the previous studies, eye movements were not monitored. It is thus possible that the logarithmicity of the reaction time functions emerged simply as an artifact of eye movements rather than as a reflection of the underlying cognitive architecture. Here we ruled out the possibility that eye movements resulted in the observed logarithmic functions, by asking participants to keep their eyes at fixation while completing fixed-target efficient visual search tasks. The logarithmic RT functions still emerged even when participants were not allowed to make eye movements, thus providing further support for our proposal. Additionally, we found that search efficiency is slightly improved when eye movements are restricted and lure–target similarity is relatively high.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1752-1762
Number of pages11
JournalAttention, Perception, and Psychophysics
Issue number7
StatePublished - Oct 1 2018


  • Efficient search
  • Exhaustive
  • Eye movements
  • Visual search

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Sensory Systems
  • Linguistics and Language


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