Rockville: Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology
Our eyes and attention are easily attracted to salient items in search displays. When a target is spatially overlapped with a salient distractor (overlapping target), it is usually detected more easily than when it is not (nonoverlapping target). Jingling and Tseng (2013), however, found that a salient distractor impaired visual search when the distractor was comprised of more than nine bars collinearly aligned to each other. In this study, we examined whether this search impairment is due to reduction of salience on overlapping targets. We used the short-latency saccades as an index for perceptual salience. Results showed that a long collinear distractor decreases perceptual salience of local overlapping targets in comparison to nonoverlapping targets, reflected by a smaller proportion of the short-latency saccades. Meanwhile, a salient noncollinear distractor increases salience of overlapping targets. Our results led us to conclude that a long collinear distractor diminishes the perceptual salience of the target, a factor which poses a counter-intuitive condition in which a target on a salient region becomes less salient. We discuss the possible causes for our findings, including crowding, the global precedence effect, and the filling-in of a collinear contour.