Statistical regularities modulate attentional capture independent of search strategy

Benchi Wang*, Jan Theeuwes

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


An earlier study using the additional singleton task showed that statistical regularities regarding the distractor location can cause an attentional bias that affects the amount of attentional capture by distractors and the efficiency of selection of targets. The distractor singleton was systematically present more often in one location than in all other locations. The present study investigated whether this bias also occurs when observers adopt a feature search mode, i.e., when they search for a specific feature (circle) between elements with different shapes, while ignoring a colored distractor singleton. It is assumed that in feature search, observers can ignore distractors in a top-down way and as such one expects that statistical regularities about the distractor location should not play a role. Contrary to this prediction, we found that even in feature search, both attentional capture by the distractors and the efficiency of selecting the target were impacted by these statistical regularities. Moreover, statistical regularities regarding the feature value of the distractor (its color) had no effect on the amount of capture or the efficiency of selection. We claim that statistical regularities cause passive lingering biases of attention such that on the priority map, the location containing a high probability distractor competes less for attention than locations that are less likely to contain distractors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1763-1774
Number of pages12
JournalAttention, Perception, and Psychophysics
Issue number7
Early online date2 Jul 2018
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2018


Author notes This research was supported by a European Research Council (ERC) advanced grant [ERC-2012-AdG-323413] to JT and a China Scholarship Council (CSC) scholarship [201508330313] to BW. The authors would like to thank Nick Gaspelin and two anonymous reviewers for their excellent suggestions and comments.

FundersFunder number
Seventh Framework Programme323413
European Research Council
China Scholarship Council201508330313


    • Attentional capture
    • Feature search mode
    • Statistical regularities
    • Suppression


    Dive into the research topics of 'Statistical regularities modulate attentional capture independent of search strategy'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this