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What you did is what you’ll do: the role of implicit visual memory in search behavior

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Our behaviors, from simple to complex ones, are heavily influenced by past experience. Recently, implicit visual memory mechanisms have been shown to largely contribute to efficient search behavior. In the lab, such memory effects are probed in visual search experiments. The ubiquitous finding is that ...

Our behaviors, from simple to complex ones, are heavily influenced by past experience. Recently, implicit visual memory mechanisms have been shown to largely contribute to efficient search behavior. In the lab, such memory effects are probed in visual search experiments. The ubiquitous finding is that repetition from one search episode to the next, of diverse aspects characterizing the search (e.g., features of the target object, its location, its onset time, features of the surrounding distractors, their spatial lay-out as well as their specific locations) considerably enhances performance. The original account for most of these effects was that the cognitive act of attending to a target in a certain context increases the attentional weight of (or reward associated with attending to) future targets associated with the same context. However, this view has been challenged on several accounts.
First, the triggering event for encoding the search context is still poorly understood, with mere exposure to search display, successful target selection and motor response as the most prominent candidates. Second, what processes during visual search are speeded as a result of repetition remains a controversial issue. While there is some agreement that both early perceptual/selective processes and later response-related processes benefit from repetition it is still unclear how these early processes should be characterized: are feature representations modified, is attention shifted more speedily to the target location or is the later process of engaging attention in the target to extract response-relevant attributes speeded? Finally, the myriad of effects that this research has generated (e.g., priming of pop-out, priming of location, dimension priming, distractor preview, temporal position priming, singleton priming, contextual cueing) have mainly been studied in isolation, and the extent to which they reflect similar mechanisms and share similar characteristics (e.g., memory traces duration, relative contributions of activation and inhibition processes) remains to be established.
Research on inter-trial priming has implications that go beyond our understanding of implicit visual memory processes. Several studies have shown that inter-trial priming accounts for a large part of the effects attributed to goal-directed attentional guidance. In addition, such research may provide valuable insights into the events that unfold during visual search. For instance, recent findings show that in search for an orientation target only distractor-related repetitions affects behavior, suggesting that unlike search for color or shape targets, search for oriented targets may essentially rely on iso-feature suppression.
The objective of this research topic is to provide a platform for scientists, who adopt a behavioral, neuro-scientific or a modeling perspective, to elaborate a comprehensive account of implicit visual memory effects in visual search, that clarifies the relationships between its multi-form manifestations, situates them with respect of stimulus-driven and goal-directed influences on visual search, and highlights their implications for decomposing search behavior into its basic constituents.


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