Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Master's Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science in Applied Cognitive Science and Human Factors (MS)

Administrative Home Department

Department of Cognitive and Learning Sciences

Advisor 1

Kelly Steelman

Committee Member 1

Myounghoon Jeon

Committee Member 2

Martyn Smith


Effective displays require symbol sets that are customized to specific tasks and performance goals. In order to create such sets, designers must account for the effects of top-down and bottom-up attention. The current work presents a pair of experiments that examined the effects of salience and cueing in a change detection tasks within the flicker paradigm (Rensink, O’Regan and Clark, 1997). Each trial, participants either received no cue or a cue indicating which symbol would be the target. This cueing manipulation isolated top-down effects to the cued condition. Consistent with previous studies (Orchard, 2012; Steelman, Orchard, Fletcher, Cockshell, Williamson & McCarley, 2013), Study 1 found a response time benefit for low salience symbols in the cued condition. Study 2 served as a replication of Study 1, but included a background manipulation that preserved the layout of the symbols while manipulating the symbol’s contrast to the background color. Results indicated a benefit for low salience symbols in the cued condition only on the black background, consistent with Study 1. However, low salience symbols showed no benefit on the gray or the white background in the cued condition, failing to support the hypothesis that low salience symbol show a cueing benefit. Chapter 5 conducted an extended analysis of the data from Study 2 using a variety of multilevel models to investigate specific symbol characteristics that may drive response times. For both uncued and cued search, eccentricity and crowding effects predicted response times. For uncued search, response times decreased as salience increased and standard deviation increased. For cued search symbol discriminability and salience predicted response times. Implications for the design of symbols and symbol sets are discussed.