Collinearity impairs local element visual search

Li Jingling, Chia Huei Tseng

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


In visual searches, stimuli following the law of good continuity attract attention to the global structure and receive attentional priority. Also, targets that have unique features are of high feature contrast and capture attention in visual search. We report on a salient global structure combined with a high orientation contrast to the background, which actually impairs the search for a local element. In a search display containing 21 × 27 short horizontal element bars, we rotated the orientation of a whole column by 90° so that it stood out as a salient vertical collinear column. Observers searched for a small tilt on one of the elemental bars, and the target only occasionally overlapped with the salient column (overlapping targets) by chance. In other words, the collinear column was not informative about a target search and was task-irrelevant. Our results showed that the target tilt orientation was discerned more slowly and less accurately for overlapping targets than nonoverlapping targets. In five experiments, we demonstrated that collinear grouping on the salient distractor was the major cause of this impairment. Potential mechanisms of how a global structure interacts with perceptual salience are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)156-167
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • Attentional capture
  • Collinear
  • Orientation
  • Salience
  • Visual search


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