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J Exp Psychol Hum Percept Perform. 1998 Oct;24(5):1342-53.

Attentional control during visual search: the effect of irrelevant singletons.

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TNO Human Factors Research Institute, Soesterberg, The Netherlands.


Four experiments investigated whether a highly salient color singleton can be ignored during serial search. Observers searched for a target letter among nontarget letters and were instructed to ignore an irrelevant, highly salient color singleton that was either compatible or incompatible with the response to the target letter. The results indicate that it was possible to prevent attentional capture by the irrelevant singleton only when both the target and the distractor color were known. When either the color of the target or the color of the to-be-ignored singleton were varied over trials, the irrelevant singleton captured attention. The ability to selectively filter singleton distractors during serial search depends on the presence of an attentional set for a specific feature value of both target and distractor. In the absence of a consistently predictable feature value of both target and distractor, top-down control is not possible.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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