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J Exp Psychol Hum Percept Perform. 2009 Feb;35(1):1-16. doi: 10.1037/0096-1523.35.1.1.

Attentional capture by salient color singleton distractors is modulated by top-down dimensional set.

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Department of Psychology, Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, Germany.


Three experiments examined whether salient color singleton distractors automatically interfere with the detection singleton form targets in visual search (e.g., J. Theeuwes, 1992), or whether the degree of interference is top-down modulable. In Experiments 1 and 2, observers started with a pure block of trials, which contained either never a distractor or always a distractor (0% or 100% distractors)--varying the opportunity to learn distractor suppression. In the subsequent trial blocks, the proportion of distractors was systematically varied (within-subjects factor in Experiment 1, between-subjects factor in Experiment 2)--varying the incentive to use distractor suppression. In Experiment 3, observers started with 100% distractors in the first block and were presented with "rare" color or luminance distractors, in addition to "frequent" color distractors, in the second block. The results revealed distractor interference to vary as a function of both the initial experience with distractors and the incentive to suppress them: the interference was larger without relevant practice and with a lesser incentive to apply suppression (Experiments 1-3). This set of findings suggests that distractor interference is top-down modulable.

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