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Caroline Barras, Dirk Kerzel; Categorical capture of attention. Journal of Vision 2014;14(10):317. doi: 10.1167/14.10.317.
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We investigated whether distractor elements from the same category as the target disrupt visual search more than distractors from a different category. One group of observers searched for a single target letter in an array of six elements. The distractors were special characters (i.e., #, @). Participants received information about the target (i.e., the letter A) before each block of 46 trials and indicated the colour of the target (green or red) by pressing one of two keys. There were three main conditions. In one third of the trials, only special characters were shown as distractors. In the same category condition, one special character was replaced by a distractor from the same category as the target (i.e., another letter). In the different category condition, one special character was replaced by a distractor from a different category than the target (i.e., a digit). Another group of observers searched for digits with letters as different-category distractors. Results showed that participants were faster to answer with special symbols or distractors from a different category compared to distractors from the same category. The results did not differ substantially between the groups with letter and digit targets. Our findings suggest that the attentional set for a particular target (single letter or single digit) was extended to the target's category. That is, instead of searching for a particular target, observers searched for any member of the target category. Therefore, distractors from the same category attracted attention whereas distractors from a different category did not.
Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2014
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