What Causes Garner Interference? Toward a Sequential Feature Binding Account of the Effect
Garner interference is one of Psychology’s powerful effects for assessing selective attention. It has been successfully applied in numerous studies to investigate a large scope of research questions. However, the processing mechanisms that give rise to Garner interference are still not well understood. The current study proposes a sequential feature binding account of Garner interference that ascribes the interference solely to episodic feature integration processes at the micro (trial-to-trial) level. The novel account builds on earlier well-established notions of ”feature integration” and ”object files”, and is augmented by formal derivations. The sequential binding account can explain the emergence of Garner interference as well as a myriad of related Garner phenomena. Four experiments were performed with the aim of testing the sequential episodic binding account. Experiment 1 and Experiment 2 used Munsell dimensions of chroma and value. Experiment 3 and Experiment 4 harnessed width and height of rectangles. The results of all four experiments strongly supported the predictions of the sequential binding account: (a) Garner interference significantly decreased as a function of inter stimulus interval (ISI), a variable that has been shown to reduce binding strength, (b) binding effects (partial repetition costs) were documented in filtering, and they decreased as a function of ISI, (c) the size of Garner interference was strongly correlated with the size of binding effect (partial repetition costs) in filtering, and (d) feature binding exceeded a critical quantity predicted by the theory to be violated with integral (but not separable) dimensions.