Mechanisms of contextual cueing: A tutorial review

  • Caitlin A. SiskEmail author
  • Roger W. Remington
  • Yuhong V. Jiang


Repeated contexts yield faster response time in visual search, compared with novel contexts. This effect is known as contextual cueing. Despite extensive study over the past two decades, there remains a spirited debate over whether repeated displays expedite search before the target is found (early locus) or facilitate response after the target is found (late locus). Here, we provide a tutorial review of contextual cueing, with a focus on assessing the locus of the effect. We evaluate the evidence from psychophysics, EEG, and eye tracking. Existing studies support an early locus of contextual cueing, consistent with attentional guidance accounts. Evidence for a late locus exists, though it is less conclusive. Existing literature also highlights a distinction between habit-guided attention learned through experience and changes in spatial priority driven by task goals and stimulus salience.


Attention Interactions with memory Visual search,·Attention: selective 



We thank Melina Kunar, Hermann Müller, and Thomas Geyer for comments. CS was supported in part by the National Science Foundation’s Research Traineeship Program.

Open Practices Statement

This paper has no associated data.


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Copyright information

© The Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Caitlin A. Sisk
    • 1
    Email author
  • Roger W. Remington
    • 1
    • 2
  • Yuhong V. Jiang
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of MinnesotaMinneapolisUSA
  2. 2.School of PsychologyUniversity of QueenslandSt LuciaAustralia

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