Juan D. Guevara Pinto, PhD


I am a sixth year graduate student in the Cognitive and Brain Sciences doctoral program in Louisiana State University, currently funded by a Dissertation Fellowship. In general, I am interested in studying attention, memory, and the interaction between these two. More precisely, I am interested in examining how our recent experiences influence what things in our environment we attend to as well as how this allocation of attention impacts what we do and don't remember. Currently, I am working on understanding the factors that contribute to the development of the low-prevalence effect in visual search and how prevalence-related effects may manifest in perception above and beyond inflated miss rates. Additionally, I am interested in studying the impact of attentional templates on incidental learning on nontarget items in visual search and prospective memory.


Previous research has demonstrated that observers, while they are searching for a target, are also able to incidentally retain information about distractor (nontarget) objects, even if they are not explicitly instructed to do so. In a series of different studies I have examined if holding a precise template in mind of what the target looks like impacts how attention is allocated to the search display, facilitating how objects are remembered.


Below are the results of one of my studies (recently accepted for publication at JEP:HPP!), where observers were presented with a categorical (word) or template (picture) search cue which they had to find in a series of rapidly presented images. As they searched, probe items were presented in the periphery, and our results show that when search cues were imprecise (i.e., words) people were not only less likely to identify these probes but were also better at remembering nontarget objects from search stream! These suggests that your attention is “narrowed” when you expect the search to be difficult, limiting your peripheral vision but enhancing your memory for information you are looking at directly!

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Below are the results of another study (which we’ll be submitting for publication soon!), where observers searched for one, two, or three targets in an array of objects. We later tested their memory for nontarget objects in a 16-AFC recognition test using similarity ranking derived from multidimensional scaling distance to examine the quality of incidental memories for these objects. The results showed that even when people do not correctly “recognize” a previously seen object, they still recognize some of its perceptual features. More importantly, such effect is stronger when the search task is difficult (i.e., three targets) as observers allocate attention to visually scrutinize each item in the display!

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