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Katerina Polychronopoulos, Brian Levinthal, Jun-ichiro Kawahara, Alejandro Lleras; Inter-trial suppression of selective attention in RSVP streams. Journal of Vision 2007;7(9):727. doi: 10.1167/7.9.727.
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In a color oddball visual search task, reaction times to finding the oddball target are slower when the target's color in the current trial was used as the color of the distractors in the preceding target-absent trial, a robust effect known as the distractor previewing effect (DPE). The DPE has been repeatedly demonstrated in the spatial domain using a variety of target-defining features, such as color, shapes, motion, and the gender of faces. Recently, Lleras et al. (under review, see also, Wan and Lleras, submitted) proposed a theory of the DPE which describes the effect in terms of an inter-trial inhibition of focused attention to the no-go (i.e. target-absent) feature. As such, the DPE should not be limited solely to the spatial domain. Participants were presented with RSVP streams of upper- and lower-case letters and were asked to report the case of the uniquely colored letter in the stream (and withhold responding when all letters were of the same color). Participants were asked to focus primarily on accuracy in this experiment, though response times were also recorded. Compared to an achromatic baseline, participants' accuracy was improved when the color of the distractors in the target-present stream was the same as the color of distractors in the preceeding target-absent stream. Furthermore, accuracy was significantly reduced when the color of the target in the target-present stream was the same as the color of distractors in the preceding target-absent stream. The magnitude of the accuracy effect was 17%. The finding of a DPE in the temporal domain is consistent with the inhibition of focused attention theory of the DPE and reveals a general biasing mechanism of attention in selection tasks.
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