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J Cogn Neurosci. 2006 Apr;18(4):604-13.

Electrophysiological evidence of the capture of visual attention.

Author information

1
Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, The Netherlands. cmhickey@sfu.ca

Abstract

We investigated the ability of salient yet task-irrelevant stimuli to capture attention in two visual search experiments. Participants were presented with circular search arrays that contained a highly salient distractor singleton defined by color and a less salient target singleton defined by form. A component of the event-related potential called the N2pc was used to track the allocation of attention to lateralized positions in the arrays. In Experiment 1, a lateralized distractor elicited an N2pc when a concurrent target was presented on the vertical meridian and thus could not elicit lateralized components such as the N2pc. A similar distractor-elicited N2pc was found in Experiment 2, which was conducted to rule out certain voluntary search strategies. Additionally, in Experiment 2 both the distractor and the target elicited the N2pc component when the two stimuli were presented on opposite sides of the search array. Critically, the distractor-elicited N2pc preceded the target-elicited N2pc on these trials. These results demonstrate that participants shifted attention to the target only after shifting attention to the more salient but task-irrelevant distractor. This pattern of results is in line with theories of attention in which stimulus-driven control plays an integral role.

PMID:
16768363
DOI:
10.1162/jocn.2006.18.4.604
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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