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Anthony M. Harris, Roger W. Remington, Stefanie I. Becker; Feature specificity in attentional capture by size and color. Journal of Vision 2013;13(3):12. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/13.3.12.
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Top-down guidance of visual attention has classically been thought to operate in a feature-specific manner. However, recent studies have shown that top-down visual attention can also be guided by information about target–nontarget feature relations (e.g., larger, redder, brighter). Here we recommend a minimal set of cues for differentiating between relational and feature-specific attentional guidance and examine contrasting predictions for the guidance of attention by size and color stimuli in a spatial cueing paradigm. In Experiment 1 we demonstrate that in search for size, when both feature-specific and relational strategies are available, participants adopt a relational search strategy. Experiment 2 shows that when feature-specific information is the only reliable information to guide attention to the target, participants are able to adopt a feature-specific set for size information. Finally, in Experiment 3 we extend our paradigm to differentiate between feature-specific and relational strategies in search for color. Together, these experiments help to clarify the conditions under which different attentional guidance strategies will be employed, and demonstrate a useful minimum cue requirement for differentiating between these two forms of top-down guidance. Implications for current theories of attention are discussed.
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