September 2011
Volume 11, Issue 11
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   September 2011
The effect of context on oculomotor capture: It's better not to think about it
Author Affiliations
  • Joseph Chisholm
    University of British Columbia, Columbia
  • Alan Kingstone
    University of British Columbia, Columbia
Journal of Vision September 2011, Vol.11, 83. doi:
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      Joseph Chisholm, Alan Kingstone; The effect of context on oculomotor capture: It's better not to think about it. Journal of Vision 2011;11(11):83.

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      © ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)

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An abundance of research has demonstrated that attention is captured by the appearance of abrupt onsets in visual displays. Abrupt onsets capture both covert and overt attentional systems and are thought to do so largely, if not entirely, in a bottom-up stimulus driven fashion, independent of any top-down attentional factors. However, Kramer et al. (2000) demonstrated that the magnitude of oculomotor capture could be influenced by participants' awareness of the abrupt onset. By making the abrupt onset more salient, younger individuals demonstrated less oculomotor capture than when the abrupt onset was less salient. This finding highlights the possibility that the magnitude of oculomotor capture may be influenced by contextual factors. In the present study, awareness was manipulated via task instruction while stimulus properties were kept consistent across all conditions. Prior to completing a traditional oculomotor capture task, participants were either a) informed that an onset would appear on some trials, b) informed of the abrupt onset and instructed to actively avoid looking toward it, or c) were not informed of the presence of the abrupt onset. Results provide evidence that the instructions influenced the magnitude of oculomotor capture. Those instructed to actively avoid the abrupt onset were worse at doing so than those simply informed of its presence. Those not told of the abrupt onset fell between these two extremes. Consistent with the view that abrupt onsets capture attention and the eyes in a bottom-up manner, oculomotor capture was observed in all conditions; however, the present findings highlight the potential importance of context in modulating this effect.


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