Psychology, Department of


Date of this Version



Perception & Psychophysics (2003) 65(5): 667-677.


Copyright 2003, Springer. Used by permission.


Watson and Humphreys (1997) proposed that visual marking is a goal-directed process that enhances visual search through the inhibition of old objects. In addition to the standard marking case with targets at new locations, included in Experiment 1 was a set of trials with targets always at old locations, as well as a set of trials with targets varying between new and old locations. The participants’ performance when detecting the target at old locations was equivalent to their performance in the full-baseline condition when they knew the target would be at old locations, and was worse when the target appeared at old locations on 50% of the trials. Marking was observed when the target appeared at new locations. In Experiment 2, an offset paradigm was used to eliminate the influence of the salient abrupt-onset feature of the new objects. No significant benefits were found for targets at new locations in the absence of onsets at new locations. The results suggest that visual marking may be an attentional selection mechanism that significantly benefits visual search when (1) the observer has an appropriate search goal, (2) the goal necessitates inhibition of old objects, and (3) the new objects include a salient perceptual feature.