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The relationship between inhibition of return and short-term memory in visual search

Team:Mag. Dr. Margit Höfler (Pl),
Ao.Univ.-Prof. Dipl.-Psych. Dr. Christof Körner (Pl),
Sebastian Bauch, MSc (PhD student)

Paul Pürcher, BSc & Katrin Liebergesell, BEd, BSc (student assistants)

Visual search is an essential human behavior. Visual search is defined as a search for a target object (like a 5-cent-coin or a specific book) under a variety of other (distractor) objects (i.e. all the coins in our purse or all books in the book shelf).

Previous research has indicated that different processes can facilitate visual search. That is, these processes ensure that we can search for a target efficiently.  One of these processes is inhibition of return (IOR). Due to IOR, recently inspected objects are inhibited and therefore the search is guided more towards new objects. For example, while we are searching for the 5-cent-coin we do not immediately look back to a coin that we have just inspected and rejected as “non-target” but search through the coins we have not inspected so far. Another important process that supports visual search is short-term memory (STM). STM ensures that we can remember which objects (i.e., coins) we have recently inspected and where they are located.

Even though IOR and STM seem to be similar processes (as both track which items were inspected), there is not much research on how or to what extent both processes interact in visual search. In order to investigate this question, we utilize state-of-the-art eye tracking methodology.

All in all, three series of experiments are planned within this project:

  • In the first series we will examine to what extent inhibition of return and short-term memory require the same resources.
  • The second series aims to investigate inhibition of return on objects stored in short-term memory.
  • In the third series finally we will investigate a possible interaction of inhibition of return and short-term memory during visual search

Do you have any questions concerning our project? Would you like to participate in one of our investigations? Then please contact us for more information (see contact info above).  

Project Leader

Mag. Dr.

Margit Höfler

Dr. Karl Dorrek Strasse 30
3500 Krems

Mobile:+43 (0)2732 893 - 2802

Ao.Univ.-Prof. Dipl.-Psych. Dr.

Christof Körner

Universitätsplatz 2/III
8010 Graz, Austria

Phone:+43 (0)316 380 - 5108
Fax:+43 (0)316 380 - 9806


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