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Po-Jang Hsieh, Jaron Colas, Nancy Kanwisher; Unconscious pop-out: Attentional capture by unseen feature singletons only when top-down attention is available. Journal of Vision 2011;11(11):157. doi: 10.1167/11.11.157.
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In visual “pop-out”, a unique visual target (e.g. a feature singleton) can be rapidly detected among a set of homogeneous distractors. However, the role of visual awareness in this process remain unclear. Here we show that, even though subjects were not aware of a suppressed pop-out display, their subsequent performance on an orientation discrimination task was significantly better at the pop-out location than at a control location. These results indicate that visual awareness of a feature singleton is not necessary for it to attract attention. Furthermore, our results show that the subliminal pop-out effect disappeared when subjects diverted their attention toward an RSVP task while viewing the same subliminal pop-out display, suggesting that the availability of top-down attention is necessary for the subliminal pop-out effect.
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