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Effect of template complexity on visual search and dual-task performance

Association for Psychological Science
Publication Date
  • C800 Psychology
  • C850 Cognitive Psychology
  • C830 Experimental Psychology
  • C810 Applied Psychology


Even dissimilar tasks interfere with one another when done together. We used visual search to examine the underlying cause of such interference. In many models, visual search is a process of biased competition controlled by a template describing the target to be sought. When the display is processed, matching against this template guides attention to the target. We show that increasing template complexity increased interference with a dissimilar concurrent task, story memory. This result was independent of reaction time: Increases in template complexity were associated with no increase in search time in Experiment 1 and with a decrease in search time in Experiment 2. The results show that the dual-task demands of visual search reflect the complexity of the template used in task control, and that this factor can be isolated from other sources of difficulty.

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