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Hanna Benoni, Yehoshua Tsal; Diluting the burden of load: Perceptual load effects are simply dilution effects. Journal of Vision 2009;9(8):228. doi: 10.1167/9.8.228.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
The substantial distractor interference obtained for small displays when the target appears alone is eliminated in large displays when the target is embedded among neutral letters. This finding has been interpreted as reflecting low load and high load target processing respectively, thereby supporting the theory of perceptual load. However, a possible alternative interpretation of this effect is that the distractor is similarly processed in small displays and large displays, yet its interference in the latter is diluted by the presence of the neutral letters. We separated the possible effects of load and dilution by adding high dilution displays. These displays contained as many letters as the high load displays, but their neutral letters were clearly distinguished from the target, thereby allowing for a low load processing mode. In five different experiments distractor interference completely disappeared for the high dilution displays. Thus, the different results for small and large displays reported in the literature are due to dilution, not perceptual load. Furthermore, when dilution is properly controlled for, there is no indication that distractors produce greater interference under low load than under high load conditions. Instead, there is a tendency for a reversed load effect, namely, greater distractor interference under high load than under low load conditions.
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