Memory for found targets interferes with subsequent performance in multiple-target visual search.
Multiple-target visual searches--when more than 1 target can appear in a given search display--are commonplace in radiology, airport security screening, and the military. Whereas 1 target is often found accurately, additional targets are more likely to be missed in multiple-target searches. To better understand this decrement in 2nd-target detection, here we examined 2 potential forms of interference that can arise from finding a 1st target: interference from the perceptual salience of the 1st target (a now highly relevant distractor in a known location) and interference from a newly created memory representation for the 1st target. Here, we found that removing found targets from the display or making them salient and easily segregated color singletons improved subsequent search accuracy. However, replacing found targets with random distractor items did not improve subsequent search accuracy. Removing and highlighting found targets likely reduced both a target's visual salience and its memory load, whereas replacing a target removed its visual salience but not its representation in memory. Collectively, the current experiments suggest that the working memory load of a found target has a larger effect on subsequent search accuracy than does its perceptual salience.
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