Spatial context and top-down strategies in visual search

Alejandro Lleras, Adrian Von Mühlenen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Marvin M. Chun and Yuhong Jiang (1998) investigated the role of spatial context on visual search. They used two display conditions. In the Old Display condition, the spatial arrangement of items in the search display was kept constant throughout the experiment. In the New Display condition, the spatial arrangement of items was always novel from trial to trial. The results showed better performance with Old Displays than with New Displays. The authors proposed that repeated spatial context help guiding attention to the target location, thus they termed this effect Contextual Cueing. We present three attempts to reproduce this effect. Experiments 1 and 2 were near exact replications of experiments in Chun and Jiang's report, where we failed to obtain Contextual Cueing. Post-experimental interviews revealed that participants used different search strategies when performing the task: an 'active' strategy (an active effort to find the target), or a 'passive' strategy (intuitive search). In Experiment 3, we manipulated task instructions to bias participants into using active or passive strategies. A robust Contextual Cueing Effect was obtained only in the passive instruction condition.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)465-482
Number of pages18
JournalSpatial Vision
Issue number4-5
StatePublished - 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • Contextual cueing
  • Implicit information
  • Individual differences
  • Spatial attention
  • Top-down strategies
  • Visual search

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition


Dive into the research topics of 'Spatial context and top-down strategies in visual search'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this