Date of Award

Spring 5-15-2017

Author's School

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Author's Department


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Type



Completion of many daily tasks (e.g., driving, grocery shopping) requires efficient allocation of limited attentional resources. One factor that affects where attention is allocated in a complex scene is previous experience with the environment—participants are faster to examine features which were previously behaviorally important. In the experimental paradigm often used to investigate this phenomenon, called Priming of Pop Out (PoP), participants view a multi-item display, locate a target (defined by a unique feature such as color), and then respond with a keypress. On the next trial, they are often faster to find the target if it shares features with the one on the previous trial. The requirement to respond on each trial of such experiments raises some questions because an independent line of recent research has shown that simply making even an arbitrary action towards an object can influence subsequent visual search. That finding raises the possibility that the results obtained from experiments on PoP may derive in whole or in part from the actions that are produced on each trial—a possibility that could influence conclusions that can be made about the phenomenon. This dissertation explored that possibility by isolating the effect of action from the other cognitive components of the PoP paradigm. Across three experiments, trials in which participants performed the typical PoP task—which requires viewing the stimuli, locating the target, and making a motor response—were interspersed with atypical trials that removed at least one of those components: in Experiment 1 the atypical task omitted both locating the target and making a response (i.e., participants just viewed the display), in Experiment 2 the response component was omitted and in Experiment 3 the target localization component was omitted. There were two key findings—PoP is robust and multifaceted. In support of the robustness of the phenomenon, PoP occurred in every condition across all experiments (i.e., even when either or both of the latter components of the typical paradigm were omitted). However, removing any component from the paradigm reduced the magnitude of PoP compared to the typical task, so what is traditionally viewed as PoP has dissociable components. Theoretical implications for PoP and the interaction between action and perception more broadly are discussed.


English (en)

Chair and Committee

Richard A. Abrams

Committee Members

David A. Balota, Julie M. Bugg, Cynthia Cryder, Sandra Hale


Permanent URL: https://doi.org/10.7936/K72V2DJC

Included in

Psychology Commons