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Timothy Wright, Daniel Blakely, John Jones, Walter Boot, James Brockmole; Linguistic and Feature Cues Interact to Determine Saccadic Latency and Direction in Visual Search. Journal of Vision 2011;11(11):96. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/11.11.96.
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While much research has focused on the pull of attention to a location by irrelevant visual features outside the focus of attention (capture), research has only begun to investigate how these same features hold attention when they fall within the focus of attention. This is an important oversight as both the factors that influence the pull of attention to a location and the holding of attention at a location are crucial to understanding visual processing. Previous studies have found that completely irrelevant items within the focus of attention tend to hold attention when they share features of the target, and that subsequent shifts of attention are biased towards search items similar to the currently attended item (Boot & Brockmole, 2010; Brockmole & Boot, 2009). In this study, we examined whether these effects are limited to precisely matching visual features or if they are examples of a more domain and modality-general property of attentional allocation. Participants searched for a target defined by color (e.g., red) and initiated search by fixating an irrelevant item that could never be the target. This item was either red (matching the target), green (matching the distractor), or blue (neutral). Furthermore, immediately before the search display appeared, participants heard the word “red”, “green”, or “blue”. Both completely irrelevant linguistic and visual cues influenced search. When the item within the focus of attention matched the target, disengagement was delayed. When the item within the focus of attention matched the auditory cue, attentional disengagement was also delayed. Finally, eye movements were strongly biased to salient peripheral distractors when the linguistic cue matched the color of these distractors, similar to the effect of irrelevant visual cues seen in other experiments. Results have important implications for our understanding of how information from multiple modalities interact to influence attention and visual search.
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