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Timothy Wright, Walter Boot; Functional Fixedness: The Functional Significance of Delayed Attentional Disengagement Based on Attention Sets. Journal of Vision 2014;14(10):328. doi: 10.1167/14.10.328.
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Numerous studies have found that attention dwells on an irrelevant item longer when the features of this item match an observers attention set (Blakely, Wright, Boot, & Brockmole, 2011; Boot & Brockmole, 2010; Wright, Boot, & Jones, submitted). This delayed disengagement effect has been proposed to automatically prolong the processing of task-relevant information to discourage cases in which fixations are too brief to allow the target of search to be recognized before attention moves on. While previous studies have robustly demonstrated that attentional disengagement is automatically delayed when the currently fixated (but irrelevant) item shares properties of the search target, so far there has been no evidence that increased fixation duration results in a greater depth of processing of the fixated item. To explore this component of attentional disengagement effects a flanker task was incorporated into the oculomotor disengagement paradigm. Observers searched for a green or blue target in the periphery and indicated the identity of the target letter within it after saccading away from an irrelevant item that was either consistent or inconsistent in color with the target. The irrelevant item within fixation also contained a flanker letter that was either consistent or inconsistent with the identity of the letter within the search target. Results suggest that an observers attention set not only determines how long attention dwells at a location (replication of previous studies) but also how deeply information is processed at that location: the identity of the item within the initially fixated item only produced a flanker effect when this item was the same color as the search target. In conclusion, delays in disengagement do appear to be functionally significant. Future research will examine if this increase in processing influences memory for items consistent with the observers attention set as well.
Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2014
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