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J Exp Psychol Hum Percept Perform. 1992 Nov;18(4):1030-44.

Involuntary covert orienting is contingent on attentional control settings.

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Department of Psychology, Villanova University, Pennsylvania 19085.


Four experiments tested a new hypothesis that involuntary attention shifts are contingent on the relationship between the properties of the eliciting event and the properties required for task performance. In a variant of the spatial cuing paradigm, the relation between cue property and the property useful in locating the target was systematically manipulated. In Experiment 1, invalid abrupt-onset precues produced costs for targets characterized by an abrupt onset but not for targets characterized by a discontinuity in color. In Experiment 2, invalid color precues produced greater costs for color targets than for abrupt-onset targets. Experiment 3 provided converging evidence for this pattern. Experiment 4 investigated the boundary conditions and time course for attention shifts elicited by color discontinuities. The results of these experiments suggest that attention capture is contingent on attentional control settings induced by task demands.

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