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Adrian von Muhlenen, Markus Conci; Attention capture by unique color changes occurs independent of color singletons. Journal of Vision 2011;11(11):270. doi: 10.1167/11.11.270.
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A sudden color change is typically less salient in capturing attention than the onset of a new object. However, recently von Muhlenen, Rempel and Enns (2005, Psychological Science) showed that a color change can capture attention as effectively as a new object provided that it occurs during a period of temporal calm, where no other display changes happen. Experiment 1 used a preview search paradigm where figure-eight placeholders turned into search letters after one second. During (Experiment 1A) or 150 ms before (Experiment 1B) this transition, one of the placeholders changed its color to red. As in previous studies the color change captured attention only when it was temporally unique, that is, when it occurred 150 before display transition. Experiment 2 used the same procedure as in Experiment 1B, except that now items had all different colors. Consequently, the changing item did not turn into a color singleton. Nevertheless, capture was as strong as in Experiment 1, indicating that capture is triggered rather by the local color change than by the sudden appearance of a color singleton. Experiment 3 was again like Experiment 1, but the direction of the color change was reversed, that is, the preview display contained one red item among gray items, which changed its color to gray. Again, attention capture was as strong as in Experiment 1, further supporting the view that attention capture is driven solely by the local color change. Finally, in Experiment 4 all items changed color from gray to red except one, which became a color singleton staying gray. The results showed that all changed item received attentional priority over the unchanged singleton items. Together these results support the view that any temporally unique change captures attention, irrespective of whether this change goes along with the appearance of a singleton or not.
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