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Angus Gellatly, Geoff Cole; The time course of attentional capture. Journal of Vision 2002;2(7):535. doi: 10.1167/2.7.535.
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In numerous experiments, using a variety of techniques and tasks, observers have responded more rapidly to a target that was a new onset visual object than to a target created by transformation of an already present object. New objects are said to “capture” attention in that they are processed with higher priority than old objects. When new and old objects are pitted against each other, however, it can be unclear whether differential responding occurs because new objects gain attention (facilitation) or because old objects lose attention (inhibition). Furthermore, the extent of strategic control, if any, over facilitation and inhibition has to be determined for any particular task. We address these issues by studying the time course of old object inferiority in a previously described task (Gellatly & Cole, 2000, Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception & Performance, 26, 889–899). In our first two experiments, new objects and old objects of varied “age” were presented together in mixed displays. Detection of old targets was worse than detection of new targets in almost every case, and deteriorated with increasing age. The results suggest that the older old objects become the less effectively they combat the attentional pull of new objects. However, our third experiment produced a very similar result with pure displays of either all old or all new objects, suggesting that old objects lose attention even when they are not in competition with new objects. This occurs even though observers gain no strategic advantage from inhibiting attention to old objects or their locations.
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