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Fook Chua; Learning to inhibit a salient non-target feature. Journal of Vision 2014;14(10):1042. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/14.10.1042.
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According to top-down models of attention (e.g., the contingent orienting hypothesis proposed by Folk and his colleagues), the target's diagnostic features are programmed into the attentional control settings (ACS) that then guides the system to locate the target efficiently. One consequence is that attention gets deployed, inadvertently, to an object that possesses some of, but not all, the target's diagnostic features. When search is effortful, attentional capture by non-targets compromises search efficiency. The question addressed here is the role of inhibition or suppression in attentional processing. Consider the case in which the search array contains a salient distractor, capable of competing, with the target, for attention. Would the ACS also be programmed to inhibit or suppress orienting to objects that possess the distractor's salient features? Our method combined the irrelevant singleton cueing paradigm (e.g., Folk, Remington, & Johnston, 1992, JEP:HPP, 18, 1030) with a variation of the irrelevant singleton paradigm (e.g., Theeuwes, 1992, P&P, 51, 599). The display, initially, contained several identical placeholders that were later transformed into search letters. An irrelevant singleton cue was presented prior to the appearance of the search letters. Orienting to the irrelevant singleton was measured by comparing trials in which the target appeared subsequently in the singleton's location (a valid trial) to trials in which that location was occupied later by a distractor (an invalid trial). The main manipulation was the target's saliency relative to one critical distractor. (The other distractors were homogeneous.) The focus was the condition in which the irrelevant singleton possessed the critical distractor's salient feature. Whether the irrelevant singleton succeeded in capturing attention would provide clues regarding the top-down attentional settings. Our results showed the following: (a) suppression occurred only when the target was non-salient; (b) orienting toward the irrelevant singleton occurred initially, with suppression occurring only in the later blocks.
Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2014
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