Search asymmetries: Parallel processing of uncertain sensory information

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    16 Citations (Scopus)


    What is the mechanism underlying search phenomena such as search asymmetry? Two-stage models such as Feature Integration Theory and Guided Search propose parallel pre-attentive processing followed by serial post-attentive processing. They claim search asymmetry effects are indicative of finding pairs of features, one processed in parallel, the other in serial. An alternative proposal is that a 1-stage parallel process is responsible, and search asymmetries occur when one stimulus has greater internal uncertainty associated with it than another. While the latter account is simpler, only a few studies have set out to empirically test its quantitative predictions, and many researchers still subscribe to the 2-stage account. This paper examines three separate parallel models (Bayesian optimal observer, max rule, and a heuristic decision rule). All three parallel models can account for search asymmetry effects and I conclude that either people can optimally utilise the uncertain sensory data available to them, or are able to select heuristic decision rules which approximate optimal performance.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1741-1750
    Number of pages10
    JournalVision Research
    Issue number15
    Early online date12 Jun 2011
    Publication statusPublished - Aug 2011


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