The price of information: Increased inspection costs reduce the confirmation bias in visual search

Jason Rajsic, Daryl Wilson, Jay Pratt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)
1 Downloads (Pure)


In visual search, there is a confirmation bias such that attention is biased towards stimuli that match a target template, which has been attributed to covert costs of updating the templates that guide search [Rajsic, Wilson, & Pratt, 2015. Confirmation bias in visual search. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance. Advance online publication. doi:10.1037/xhp0000090]. In order to provide direct evidence for this speculation, the present study increased the cost of inspections in search by using gaze- and mouse-contingent searches, which restrict the manner in which information in search displays can be accrued, and incur additional motor costs (in the case of mouse-contingent searches). In a fourth experiment, we rhythmically mask elements in the search display to induce temporal inspection costs. Our results indicated that confirmation bias is indeed attenuated when inspection costs are increased. We conclude that confirmation bias results from the low-cost strategy of matching information to a single, concrete visual template, and that more sophisticated guidance strategies will be used when sufficiently beneficial. This demonstrates that search guidance itself comes at a cost, and that the form of guidance adopted in a given search depends on a comparison between guidance costs and the expected benefits of their implementation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)832-849
JournalQuarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology
Issue number4
Early online date31 Jan 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2018


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