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Daniel Vatterott, Shaun Vecera; Attentional Capture is attenuated after experience with diverse distractor features. Journal of Vision 2012;12(9):1339. doi: 10.1167/12.9.1339.
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Past research has shown participants were able to ignore salient distractors when encouraged to use a specific target template (Bacon & Egeth, 1994). Recent work from our lab qualified these results by demonstrating that participants not only needed a specific target template, but they also needed experience with salient distractors in order to prevent capture (Vatterott & Vecera, 2011). Our results suggested that participants needed experience with each specific salient distractor in order to prevent capture by it, but this may not be the case. Research in learning has found that variability in the environment can enhance the ability to generalize learning to novel situations (Schmidt & Bjork, 1992). This suggests that if participants are given more variability in salient distractors, they may be able to generalize distractor rejection to novel salient distractors. To investigate this possibility, participants completed a search task with three different salient distractors present on half the trials over three blocks. Critically, participants were assigned to one of two groups: one group (within-block) was presented with all three color singletons intermixed within three blocks, the other group (between-block) was presented with a different color singleton in each of the three blocks. The critical trials came in the fourth block when both groups were presented with a novel salient distractor on half the trials. We hypothesized that if variability aids in the ability to generalize distractor rejection, capture in the 4th block should be attenuated for the within-block group compared to the between-block group. In line with this hypothesis, the novel singleton did not initially capture attention in the within-block group while there was a significant attentional capture in the between-block group. These results indicate that experience with a specific color singleton is not necessary for efficient rejection of that singleton.
Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2012
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