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Visual search for a conjunction target is made easier when distractor items are temporally segregated over time to produce two separate old and new groups (the new group containing the target item). The benefit of presenting half the distractors first is known as the preview effect. Recently some researchers have argued that the preview effect occurs because new stimuli capture attention. This account was tested in the present study by using a novel "top-up" condition that exploits the fact that when previews appear only briefly before the search display, there is minimal preview benefit. We show that effects of a brief preview can be "topped up" by an earlier exposure of the same items, even when the preview disappears between its first and second presentations. This top-up effect demonstrates that the history of the old stimuli is important for the preview benefit, contrary to the account favoring onset capture. We discuss alternative accounts of how the preview benefit arises.

Original publication




Journal article


Psychol Sci

Publication Date





181 - 185


Adolescent, Adult, Association Learning, Attention, Color Perception, Discrimination Learning, Female, Humans, Male, Mental Recall, Orientation, Pattern Recognition, Visual, Psychophysics, Reaction Time