The greener, the slower: Distraction from Relational Templates in Visual Foraging

Poster Presentation 43.347: Monday, May 22, 2023, 8:30 am – 12:30 pm, Banyan Breezeway
Session: Attention: Features

Jan Tünnermann1 (), Inga Grössle1, Anna Schubö1; 1Phillips University Marburg

In visual search, attention can be guided by "templates", memory representations of targets. In recent years, evidence has been accumulated showing that templates are highly flexible and not rigid representations of the veridical target features. For instance, it has been shown that templates encode relational properties, such as that the sought-four object is "greener" than the environment instead of a particular shade of green. So far, this phenomenon has only been studied in highly artificial single-target searches in which searchers experience the environment only for split-seconds and react with button presses. Relational guidance might only exert its influence in the earliest impression of a scene before templates get tuned more precisely toward the target features. Here we investigated whether relational guidance also occurs in a more natural, behaviorally continuous foraging task, where observers collect multiple targets from "patches" by tapping on them on a tablet PC. The patches also contained many "environmental" items, shapes that were not to be collected but that generated a feature context. In addition to targets (circular disks), the patches also contained distractors (squares). The color-space direction in which targets and distractors deviated from the environment elements was varied. Our results show that distractors whose color differed from the environment in the same direction as the target impaired selection performance most. In contrast, distractors differing in the opposite direction did not impair performance, even though both distractor variants were equally similar to the targets. We found a similar pattern in the number of items foragers left behind when moving to a new patch, showing that searchers try to avoid the inefficient contexts created by relationally matching distractors. These results highlight that relational attention guidance also affects natural foraging-like tasks, rendering it likely that relational guidance is even more prominent in real-world searches.