Publication Date


Document Type


Committee Members

Assaf Harel (Committee Member), Joseph Houpt (Committee Chair), Alan Pinkus (Committee Member), Scott Watamaniuk (Committee Member)

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


When people look through the environment their eyes are guided in part by what they have recently seen. This phenomenon, referred to as visual priming, is studied in the laboratory through manipulations of stimulus repetition. Typically, in search tasks, response times are speeded when the same target is repeated relative to when it is changed (e.g., Maljkovic & Nakayama, 1994). Although priming is thought to be based on a memory mechanism in the visual system, there is a debate in the literature as to whether such a mechanism is driven by relatively early (e.g., feature-based accounts) or later (e.g., episodic memory accounts) processing. Across three experiments, this dissertation utilized a computational modeling framework (Systems Factorial Technology; Townsend & Nozawa, 1995) to directly compare early and later accounts of priming and determine when visual priming is processed within the visual system in both feature and conjunctive search tasks. Specifically, priming was assessed in terms of its temporal relation (i.e., parallel or serial) to a relatively early process (the processing of conspicuity) and a relatively later process (the processing of Rewards, Experiment 1a; the processing of Word Cues, Experiments 1b and 2) in the visual system. The results suggest that the priming manipulation is processed in parallel with the conspicuity and word cue manipulations within both singleton (Experiments 1a and 1b) and conjunctive (Experiment 2) search. This supports accounts of priming as an early process and suggest that models of priming as a later process within feature or conjunctive search should be rejected. Further, these results also provide evidence to suggest word cues are processed at early stages of visual processing. This supports models of visual processing that suggest high-level representations can modulate the earliest levels of the visual system. Together, these findings provide some of the strongest evidence about the temporal processing characteristics of priming in visual search to date.

Page Count


Department or Program

Department of Psychology

Year Degree Awarded


Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.