This article applies to:
Experiment Author: Susan Campbell. Adapted from STEP and used with permission of Brian MacWhinney
This experiment contrasts detection of similar and dissimilar items in a rapidly changing display. Participants are asked to memorize a set of letters or numbers, then identify members of that set of letters or numbers when they are presented rapidly in a larger set of letters or numbers. It is considerably easier to recognize and respond to a number in a set of letters than it is to recognize a letter in a set of other letters.
In this experiment participants see a set of letters or numbers on slides and memorize a new set of target letters or numbers for each trial. A series of slides with 1-4 spots filled by letters or numbers appears in rapid succession. Slide duration varies between 40 and 200 milliseconds. When a target letter or number appears press the spacebar as a response. There are 36 trials in this experiment.
Schneider, W. and Shiffrin, R.M. (1977). Controlled and automatic human information processing: I. Detection, search, and attention. Psychological Review, 84(1), 1-66.
Cited Experiment Abstract
A two-process theory of human information processing is proposed and applied to detection, search, and attention phenomena. Automatic processing is activation of a learned sequence of elements in long-term memory that is initiated by appropriate inputs and then proceeds automatically – without subject control, without stressing the capacity limitation of the system, and without necessarily demanding attention. Controlled processing is a temporary activation of a sequence of elements that can be set up quickly and easily but requires attention, is capacity-limited (usually serial in nature), and is controlled by the subject. A series of studies using both reaction time and accuracy measures is presented, which traces these concepts in the form of automatic detection and controlled search through the areas of detection, search, and attention. Results in these areas are shown to arise from common mechanisms. Automatic detection is shown to develop following consistent mapping of stimuli to responses over trials. Controlled search is utilized in varied-mapping paradigms, and in our studies, it takes the form of serial, terminating search. The approach resolves a number of apparent conflicts in the literature.
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STEP: Response and Encoding Factors in "Ignoring" Irrelevant Information 
STEP: Forest Before the Trees: The Precedence of Global Features in Visual Perception 
STEP: Attention to Visual Pattern Information Produces the Blink in Rapid Serial Visual Presentation 
STEP: Multiple Resources for Processing and Storage in Short-Term Working Memory 
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