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Visual attention in spatial cueing and visual search.


To characterize internal processes of an observer conducting perceptual tasks, we developed an observer model that combines the perceptual template model (PTM), the attention mechanisms in the PTM framework (Lu & Dosher, 1998), and uncertainty of signal detection theory (Green & Swets, 1966). The model was evaluated with a visual search experiment conducted in a range of external noise, signal contrast, and target-distractor similarity conditions. In each trial, eight Gabor patches were shown in each of two brief intervals, with one target at a different orientation from the distractors in one of the presentations. Subjects were precued to a subset of the stimuli (1, 2, 4, or 8) and asked to report (a) which interval contained the target and (b) where the target was. Individual roles of uncertainty and of attention in visual search were investigated by comparing models with and without an attention component. The results showed that decision uncertainty alone was sufficient to account for the set-size effect, even in conditions with high target-distractor similarity. Our theoretical model and empirical results provide a coherent picture regarding how visual information is selected and processed during feature search.

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