UBC Theses and Dissertations

UBC Theses Logo

UBC Theses and Dissertations

Search through time is like search through space : behavioural and electrophysiological evidence Blundon, Elizabeth Gwynne


We conducted four experiments comprised of sequential auditory and visual searches in order to further explore the generalizability of the search asymmetry phenomenon to different sensory modalities, and to the sequential presentation of items in search arrays. It has been shown that search time to identify targets that contain features that distractors don’t have (feature-present targets) is faster than search time to identify targets that are missing features that distractors have (feature-absent targets). In Experiment 1 participants listened to auditory oddball sequences, consisting of two types of five-tone runs: the flat run, which consisted of five pure tones of the same frequency (the feature-absent target), and the change run, which consisted of four pure tones of the same frequency, followed by a fifth tone of a different frequency (the feature-present target). In some sequences the change runs were common and the flat runs were rare (the feature-present condition), while in other sequences these roles were reversed (the feature-absent condition). Experiments 2, 3 and 4 used the same protocol, however the visual stimuli consisted of rings (annuli) that differed by some feature (colour in Experiment 2, contrast in Experiment 3, and shade in Experiment 4). In all four experiments participant reaction times (RT) and electrophysiological (P300) responses to rare target patterns were recorded. In Experiments 1, 2 and 3, the reaction time and P300 latencies to identify feature-present targets were significantly faster than those to feature-absent targets, suggesting strong similarities between simultaneous visual search, and sequential auditory and visual search. What’s more, P300 responses to feature-present targets exhibited strong characteristics of both P3a and P3b subcomponents, while feature-absent responses only resembled that of the P3b. By contrast, the results of the fourth experiment were inconclusive. In Experiment 4 the saliency of the feature difference in the change runs was significantly reduced compared to that of the first three experiments, yielding longer reaction times and weaker P300 responses. Implications for the current understanding of search strategies associated with easy (feature-present) and difficult (feature-absent) searches, as well as the locus of the search asymmetry phenomenon, are discussed.

Item Citations and Data


Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada