Visual search is a popular tool for studying a range of questions about perception and attention, thanks to the ease with which the basic paradigm can be controlled and manipulated. While often thought of as a sub-field of vision science, search tasks are significantly more complex than most other perceptual tasks, with strategy and decision playing an essential, but neglected, role. In this review, we briefly describe some of the important theoretical advances about perception and attention that have been gained from studying visual search within the signal detection and guided search frameworks. Under most circumstances, search also involves executing a series of eye movements. We argue that understanding the contribution of biases, routines and strategies to visual search performance over multiple fixations will lead to new insights about these decision-related processes and how they interact with perception and attention. We also highlight the neglected potential for variability, both within and between searchers, to contribute to our understanding of visual search. The exciting challenge will be to account for variations in search performance caused by these numerous factors and their interactions. We conclude the review with some recommendations for ways future research can tackle these challenges to move the field forward.
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