Visual search has memory

Matthew S. Peterson, Arthur F. Kramer, Ranxiao Frances Wang, David E. Irwin, Jason S. McCarley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


By monitoring subjects' eye movements during a visual search task, we examined the possibility that the mechanism responsible for guiding attention during visual search has no memory for which locations have already been examined. Subjects did reexamine some items during their search, but the pattern of revisitations did not fit the predictions of the memoryless search model. In addition, a large proportion of the refixations were directed at the target, suggesting that the revisitations were due to subjects' remembering which items had not been adequately identified. We also examined the patterns of fixations and compared them with the predictions of a memoryless search model. Subjects' fixation patterns showed an increasing hazard function, whereas the memoryless model predicts a flat function. Lastly, we found no evidence suggesting that fixations were guided by amnesic covert scans that scouted the environment for new items during fixations. Results do not support the claims of the memoryless search model, and instead suggest that visual search does have memory.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)287-292
Number of pages6
JournalPsychological Science
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2001

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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