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Fook Chua; Inhibition of distractor features in the attentional control setting. Journal of Vision 2012;12(9):373. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/12.9.373.
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The contingent involuntary orienting hypothesis posits that an object captures attention only if it possesses the critical target-defining feature (Folk et al., 1992). The hypothesis is silent regarding the role that might be played by the distractor-defining feature(s). We examined, using the spatial cuing paradigm, whether the attentional control setting may be configured such that there would be top-down inhibitory control of the critical distractor feature(s). When the search array was presented, the target location was marked by a specific feature (e.g., the color red). A different feature on the same dimension defined the distractor locations (e.g., the color green). The question was whether a salient irrelevant cue (i.e., a singleton), presented before the search array was presented, would recruit attention to its location. As the cue was irrelevant, attentional deployment to its site would be considered an instance of attentional capture. The diagnostic for capture is a shorter search latency for the target if it appeared in the same location as the irrelevant cue, and a longer latency if the target appeared in a different location from the cue. But, if the irrelevant cue had been suppressed, this facilitation ought not to be observed. Our results, consistent with the contingent involuntary orienting hypothesis, showed a facilitation effect when the irrelevant cue possessed the critical target feature. But, when the irrelevant singleton shared the defining feature of the distractors, capture failed, suggesting inhibition occurred. More interesting was the case in which the irrelevant cue had neither the critical feature of the target nor the distractor color. The cue succeeded in capturing attention, a finding that is consistent with the view that a salient object would succeed in capturing attention so long as the object's features were not suppressed via top-down inhibitory control.
Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2012
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