Predicting Search Performance in Heterogeneous Scenes: Quantifying the Impact of Homogeneity Effects in Efficient Search

Alejandro Lleras, Zhiyuan Wang, Anna Madison, Simona Buetti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Recently, Wang, Buetti and Lleras (2017) developed an equation to predict search performance in heterogeneous visual search scenes (i.e., multiple types of non-target objects simultaneously present) based on parameters observed when participants perform search in homogeneous scenes (i.e., when all non-target objects are identical to one another). The equation was based on a computational model where every item in the display is processed with unlimited capacity and independently of one another, with the goal of determining whether the item is likely to be a target or not. The model was tested in two experiments using real-world objects. Here, we extend those findings by testing the predictive power of the equation to simpler objects. Further, we compare the model’s performance under two stimulus arrangements: spatially-intermixed (items randomly placed around the scene) and spatially-segregated displays (identical items presented near each other). This comparison allowed us to isolate and quantify the facilitatory effect of processing displays that contain identical items (homogeneity facilitation), a factor that improves performance in visual search above-and-beyond target-distractor dissimilarity. The results suggest that homogeneity facilitation effects in search arise from local item-to-item interaction (rather than by rejecting items as “groups”) and that the strength of those interactions might be determined by stimulus complexity (with simpler stimuli producing stronger interactions and thus, stronger homogeneity facilitation effects).
Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number2
Pages (from-to)2
JournalCollabra: Psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 8 2019


  • Heterogeneity effect
  • Homogeneity facilitation
  • Independent processing
  • Local interaction
  • Visual search

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)


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