A saliency-specific and dimension-independent mechanism of distractor suppression

Dongyu Gong*, Jan Theeuwes

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


During everyday tasks, salient distractors may capture our attention. Recently, it was shown that through implicit learning, capture by a salient distractor is reduced by suppressing the location where a distractor is likely to appear. In the current study, we presented distractors of different saliency levels at the same specific location, asking the question whether there is always one suppression level for a particular location or whether, for one location, suppression depends on the actual saliency of the distractor appearing at that location. In three experiments, we demonstrate a saliency-specific mechanism of distractor suppression, which can be flexibly modulated by the overall probability of encountering distractors of different saliency levels to optimize behavior in a specific environment. The results also suggest that this mechanism has dimension-independent aspects, given that the saliency-specific suppression pattern is unaffected when saliency signals of distractors are generated by different dimensions. It is argued that suppression is saliency-dependent, implying that suppression is modulated on a trial-by-trial basis contingent on the saliency of the actual distractor presented.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)292-307
Number of pages16
JournalAttention, Perception, and Psychophysics
Issue number1
Early online date6 Oct 2020
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
J.T. was supported by a European Research Council (ERC) advanced grant 833029—[LEARNATTEND], and D.G. was supported by Tsinghua University Initiative Scientific Research Program. Open practices statement

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020, The Author(s).

Copyright 2021 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Attentional capture
  • Saliency
  • Suppression
  • Visual attention


Dive into the research topics of 'A saliency-specific and dimension-independent mechanism of distractor suppression'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this