Spatial Context Target Relearning in Memory-guided Visual Search

Patrick R. Mead

Advisor: Matthew S. Peterson, PhD, Department of Psychology

Committee Members: Tyler Shaw, Deborah Boehm-Davis

Buchanan Hall, #D201A
April 28, 2017, 02:30 PM to 11:30 AM


Previous studies of spatial context cueing found that individuals were unable to associate a secondary target location with a previously learned spatial context following a target relocation event. Following a relocation event the positive spatial context cueing benefit was lost, with visual search times for repeated contexts becoming no faster than their novel counterparts. Furthermore, despite subsequent repetitions of the secondary target context pairings, the repeated contexts failed to improve relative to the novel contexts following the relocation event (Makovski and Jiang, 2010; Mangenelli and Pollmann, 2009; Zellin, Conci, Muhlenen, and Muller, 2011; Conci, Sun, and Muller, 2011; Conci and Muller, 2012; Zellin, Conci, Muhlenen, and Muller, 2013). Alternatively, in four separate experiments this study showed successful learning and relearning of the association between an initial and secondary target location for a given context. In two seperate experiments learning for the initial target location led to a positive spatial context cueing effect, leading to improved search response times. As in previous studies, this effect was lost following a target relocation event. However, unlike previous studies, the cueing effect returned with subsequent repetitions of the secondary target location context pairings. To identify the possible driving factors behind these diverging results, two additional experiments were conducted to replicate and compare the findings from the first two experiments with those of previous studies. The results of the final two experiments revealed that positive spatial context cueing returned under the conditions used in the first two experiments and, unexpectedly, in those of previous studies. This result further contradicts previous findings suggesting that spatial target context relearning can and does occur following a target relocation event, and that previous studies may have failed to see this effect due to differences in their sample size, population, and/or experiment sensitivity.