Visual search asymmetries within color-coded and intensity-coded displays

Yusuke Yamani, Jason McCarley

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    14 Citations (Scopus)


    Color and intensity coding provide perceptual cues to segregate categories of objects within a visual display, allowing operators to search more efficiently for needed information. Even within a perceptually distinct subset of display elements, however, it may often be useful to prioritize items representing urgent or task-critical information. The design of symbology to produce search asymmetries (Treisman & Souther, 1985) offers a potential technique for doing this, but it is not obvious from existing models of search that an asymmetry observed in the absence of extraneous visual stimuli will persist within a complex color- or intensity-coded display. To address this issue, in the current study we measured the strength of a visual search asymmetry within displays containing color- or intensity-coded extraneous items. The asymmetry persisted strongly in the presence of extraneous items that were drawn in a different color (Experiment 1) or a lower contrast (Experiment 2) than the search-relevant items, with the targets favored by the search asymmetry producing highly efficient search. The asymmetry was attenuated but not eliminated when extraneous items were drawn in a higher contrast than search-relevant items (Experiment 3). Results imply that the coding of symbology to exploit visual search asymmetries can facilitate visual search for high-priority items even within color- or intensity-coded displays.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)124-132
    Number of pages9
    JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Applied
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2010


    • attention
    • display design
    • visual search


    Dive into the research topics of 'Visual search asymmetries within color-coded and intensity-coded displays'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this