Abrupt onsets capture attention independent of topdown control settings

D.B.B. Schreij, C Owens, J. Theeuwes

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Previous research using a spatial cuing paradigm in which a distractor cue preceded the target has shown that new objects presented with abrupt onsets only capture attention when observers are set to look for them (e.g., Folk, Remington, & Johnston, 1992). In the present study, we used the same spatial cuing paradigm as Folk et al. (1992) to demonstrate that even when observers have an attentional set for a color singleton or a specific color feature, an irrelevant new object presented with an abrupt onset interfered with search. We also show that the identity of the abrupt-onset distractor affects responses to the target, indicating that at some point spatial attention was allocated to the abrupt onset. We conclude that abrupt onsets or new objects override a top-down set for color. Abrupt onsets or new objects appear to capture attention independently of top-down control settings. Copyright 2008 Psychonomic Society, Inc.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)208-218
Number of pages11
JournalPerception & Psychophysics
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2008

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