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We report evidence for spatially parallel visual search for targets defined by combinations of form elements in visual search. In Section 1, we show that flat search functions occur for combined-form targets when distractor forms are homogeneous and can be grouped together, thus segmenting the target from the distractors. Introducing heterogeneous distractors lessens distractor grouping and can produce serial search. These results cannot be easily attributed to subjects' use of local feature information to discriminate targets. Instead, they suggest that grouping can operate at a level at which combined form information is represented. In Section 2 we show that these grouping effects are spatially scaled by the size of the stimuli. In Section 3 we show that heterogeneity does not prevent flat search functions when the target has a unique defining feature. The data are interpreted in terms of a hierarchial processing system involving both devoted single-feature and combined-feature (junction) maps. Grouping processes can operate at both the single-feature and the combined-form levels. Selection in visual search remains confined to one object description at a time, but this description can be at various spatial scales, including that at the level of grouped forms.

Original publication




Journal article


Journal of Experimental Psychology: General

Publication Date





258 - 279