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Seah Chang, Corbin Cunningham, Howard Egeth; The Power of Negative Thinking: Paradoxical but Effective Ignoring of Salient-but-Irrelevant Stimuli by a Spatial Cue. Journal of Vision 2018;18(10):471. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/18.10.471.
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It is often assumed that a uniquely colored singleton among other uniformly colored stimuli can function as a powerful attractor of attention (Theeuwes, 1992). However, top-down attentional mechanisms are also powerful and can suppress distractors when a pre-cue is given (Cunningham & Egeth, 2016; Munneke, Van der Stigchel, & Theeuwes, 2008). The current study tested whether an endogenous spatial cue indicating the location of a salient color singleton distractor can eliminate involuntary attentional allocation to such a stimulus. On each trial, either a capital "B" or "F" was randomly presented as the target letter. On ignore trials, an arrow cue indicated a to-be-ignored location that would never contain a target but would contain a color singleton distractor. Neutral trials provided no useful spatial information. Target-distractor compatibility was manipulated with a lowercase 'b' or 'f' distractor to test processing of the cued location. The results showed that a significant singleton capture effect was eliminated on ignore trials regardless of the consistency of the singleton color (Experiments 1 & 2). Significant compatibility effects were observed on both ignore and neutral trials, suggesting that participants adopted the strategy of selecting the cued location followed by rapid disengagement from that location on ignore trials. Overall, a spatial cue produces paradoxical but effective ignoring of salient-but-irrelevant stimuli; with a spatial cue, participants inhibited a cued location by first selecting the location and then rapidly disengaging from it. To explore whether participants could learn to ignore the color singleton in the absence of a spatial cue (Gaspelin & Luck, 2017; Vatterott & Vecera, 2012), in Experiment 3, only neutral trials were used with a consistent color singleton. Participants were not able to suppress singleton distractors, although the magnitude of singleton capture effects was reduced compared to that of neutral trials in Experiments 1 and 2.
Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2018
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