Zellin, Martina; Conci, Markus; Mühlenen, Adrian von; Müller, Hermann J. (2013): Here today, gone tomorrow - adaptation to change in memory-guided visual search.
In: PLOS ONE 8(3), e59466




Visual search for a target object can be facilitated by the repeated presentation of an invariant configuration of nontargets ('contextual cueing'). Here, we tested adaptation of learned contextual associations after a sudden, but permanent, relocation of the target. After an initial learning phase targets were relocated within their invariant contexts and repeatedly presented at new locations, before they returned to the initial locations. Contextual cueing for relocated targets was neither observed after numerous presentations nor after insertion of an overnight break. Further experiments investigated whether learning of additional, previously unseen context-target configurations is comparable to adaptation of existing contextual associations to change. In contrast to the lack of adaptation to changed target locations, contextual cueing developed for additional invariant configurations under identical training conditions. Moreover, across all experiments, presenting relocated targets or additional contexts did not interfere with contextual cueing of initially learned invariant configurations. Overall, the adaptation of contextual memory to changed target locations was severely constrained and unsuccessful in comparison to learning of an additional set of contexts, which suggests that contextual cueing facilitates search for only one repeated target location.