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Vision Res. 2008 May;48(11):1315-26. doi: 10.1016/j.visres.2008.02.006. Epub 2008 Apr 14.

Expectancies modulate attentional capture by salient color singletons.

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Department Psychologie, Lehrstuhl für Allgemeine und Experimentelle Psychologie, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, Leopoldstrasse 13, 80802 München, Germany.


In singleton feature search for a form-defined target, the presentation of a task-irrelevant, but salient singleton color distractor is known to interfere with target detection [Theeuwes, J. (1991). Cross-dimensional perceptual selectivity. Perception & Psychophysics, 50, 184-193; Theeuwes, J. (1992). Perceptual selectivity for color and form. Perception & Psychophysics, 51, 599-606]. The present study was designed to re-examine this effect, by presenting observers with a singleton form target (on each trial) that could be accompanied by a salient) singleton color distractor, with the proportion of distractor to no-distractor trials systematically varying across blocks of trials. In addition to RTs, eye movements were recorded in order to examine the mechanisms underlying the distractor interference effect. The results showed that singleton distractors did interfere with target detection only when they were presented on a relatively small (but not on a large) proportion of trials. Overall, the findings suggest that cross-dimensional interference is a covert attention effect, arising from the competition of the target with the distractor for attentional selection [Kumada, T., & Humphreys, G. W. (2002). Cross-dimensional interference and cross-trial inhibition. Perception & Psychophysics, 64, 493-503], with the strength of the competition being modulated by observers' (top-down) incentive to suppress the distractor dimension.

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