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Focal distraction: spatial shifts of attentional focus are not required for contingent capture.

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Department of Psychology, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada.


Contingent capture occurs when distractors that share the target's defining attribute capture attention and slow down target identification. This slowdown has been attributed to an involuntary attentional shift to the location of a pertinent distractor. The present study examined an additional source of delay: the time spent in processing pertinent distractors. In 7 experiments, distractors were presented at fixation, and targets were presented either at fixation or peripherally. Contingent capture invariably occurred when a salient distractor was presented within about 600 ms before the target, even when spatial shifts in attentional focus were ruled out. A 2-stage model is proposed in which stimuli must pass an input filter tuned to the target's defining attribute before gaining access to a high-level stage that is unavailable while a distractor is being processed.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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