August 2012
Volume 12, Issue 9
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   August 2012
Irrelevant faces do not capture spatial attention in RSVP sequences
Author Affiliations
  • Chris Oriet
    Department of Psychology, University of Regina
  • Mamata Pandey
    Department of Psychology, University of Regina
Journal of Vision August 2012, Vol.12, 1346. doi:
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      Chris Oriet, Mamata Pandey; Irrelevant faces do not capture spatial attention in RSVP sequences. Journal of Vision 2012;12(9):1346. doi:

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

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Emotional faces are very engaging and are proposed to capture attention in spatial tasks (Eastwood, Smilek, & Merikle, 2003). Uniquely-coloured distractors can also capture attention, and can do so even when attention is maintained in a highly-focused state at a known target location, such as when identifying a target letter from an RSVP sequence of distractor letters (Folk, Leber, & Egeth, 2002). Here we examine whether emotional faces can capture attention when attention is highly focused at a known target location. In Experiment 1 a sequence of black letters was presented in an RSVP sequence. Two straight lines and a curve, which either formed an emotional face or a meaningless group (T1) surrounded one black letter. Subjects reported the identity of one red letter (T2) presented at various temporal lags from T1. Attention was captured by the perceptual groups only when they were red, leading to impaired T2 identification at short lags; distractors forming an emotional face, however, were no more detrimental to T2 identification. In Experiment 2 distractor letters were omitted from the sequence in the positions before, during, and immediately after the perceptual group. Meaning again did not influence T2 identification. In Experiment 3 subjects performed visual search for a target (a perceptual group, or a letter within a perceptual group), presented in a static array with other meaningless distractor perceptual groups, one of which sometimes formed an emotional face. The presence of an emotional face slowed response times for letter targets within perceptual groups, but not for perceptual groups themselves. The results indicate that a strict filter is adopted by the attentional system to cope with the heavy demands imposed by the RSVP paradigm. Consequently, emotional faces do not capture attention when it is narrowly focused, but do so when attention is broadly distributed.

Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2012


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