Skip to Main Content
This chapter considers the range of visual search tasks, from those involving very briefly presented stimuli to those involving search processes that extend over many days. Most of the discussion centers on “classic” visual search tasks, as studied in the lab. Here, observers look for targets in displays of varying numbers of distractor items. The efficiency of these search tasks is driven by how effectively attention can be guided toward target items. Guidance, in classic search, is based on preattentive processing of a limited set of attributes (e.g., color, size). Thus, if the target is known to be red, attention can be guided to red items. If it is known to be big and red, both features can guide attention. Some of the rules of the human visual search engine are described and consideration is given to how these rules apply or change when moving from “classic” search tasks to real-world search tasks. Connections to other search literatures, including foraging and memory search, are highlighted.