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Author ORCID Identifier


Open Access Dissertation

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program


Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded


First Advisor

Kyle R. Cave

Second Advisor

Jenna Marquard

Third Advisor

Lisa Sanders

Fourth Advisor

Matthew Davidson

Subject Categories

Cognitive Psychology


Recent studies demonstrate that experience influences observers’ strategic attentional guidance in visual searches. The current study explored how experience with difficult target color discrimination influences search strategy. Two participant groups were compared through seven dual-target search experiments: A hard search experience group and an easy search experience group. The easy search experience group performed only the easy color discrimination trials in which the two targets were easily distinguishable from distractors in the color dimension. The hard search experience group performed the same easy discrimination trials in half of the trials. The other half were difficult color discrimination trials in which the two targets were barely distinguishable from some of distractors in the color dimension. Behavioral and eye movement data from only the easy color discrimination trials were analyzed between the two groups. Experiments 1 to 4 were designed to examine the effect of experience with difficult color discrimination on the search strategy in a color-shape conjunction search task. Results showed the hard search experience group fixated more to colors that were not similar to either of the target colors, suggesting that the experience with difficult color discrimination discouraged the adoption of an efficient search strategy (i.e., color guidance). In Experiments 5 and 6, targets were defined only by color. The hard experience group made more fixations to the intervening colors, suggesting that their search was more likely to be guided by a range template representing the two target colors along with the colors between them in color space. In Experiment 7, additional feedback was provided for incorrect responses to encourage participants to re-evaluate their responses and to take the efficient search strategy. Compared with Experiment 1, there was an overall decrease in recognition error responses and a hint that the feedback might bring the level of color guidance in the hard group closer to the level in the easy groups in Experiment 7. The findings of the current study help in understanding how efficient or inefficient search strategy is built by experience with difficult target color discrimination, and to begin the exploration of procedures that could improve performance in difficult search tasks.