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Timothy Wright, Walter Boot, John Jones; Cues imprecise in modality and physical appearance influence attentional disengagement and saccade direction. Journal of Vision 2013;13(9):89. doi: 10.1167/13.9.89.
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The top-down and bottom-up factors that result in the capture of an observer’s visual attention have been studied extensively. However, also critical to visual processing is the length of time attention remains at a location once it arrives there (i.e., attentional disengagement). Studies that have examined attentional disengagement attribute top-down mechanisms as the primary determinant of disengagement speed (Brockmole & Boot, 2009; Boot & Brockmole, 2010; Blakely, Wright, Boot, Brockmole, 2011). These studies have repeatedly demonstrated that when a fixated but irrelevant item shares a feature with an observer’s target disengagement is delayed. In general, these studies have not examined the precision at which the attention sets that determine disengagement time operate. The present experiments examined whether similar but imprecise cues modulate attentional disengagement. Participants searched for a target of a specific color by first saccading away from an irrelevant item at fixation. Irrelevant cues were either dissimilar in modality (Experiment 1) or dissimilar in physical match to the target (Experiment 2). Results showed that irrelevant linguistic cues that differed in modality but shared meaning with the feature (color) presented at fixation had minimal influence on how long attention dwelled at the initial irrelevant object within fixation. However, these modality-imprecise cues did influence where attention was allocated following disengagement, as cues consistent with the distractor increased eye movements to the distractor. On the contrary, fixated features that were similar to the target’s color but imprecise in physical match influenced when attention was disengaged, suggesting that attention sets may be categorical in nature. In conclusion, similar but imprecise cues influence both where and when attention is deployed, with linguistic cues influencing where attention is deployed and physical cues influencing the time course of disengagement. These findings extend and support a top-down view of attentional disengagement.
Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2013
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