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Valeria Di Caro, Jan Theeuwes, Chiara Della Libera; Suppression history of spatial locations biases attentional and oculomotor control. Journal of Vision 2018;18(10):477. doi: 10.1167/18.10.477.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
The ability to attend to what is relevant in our visual field requires to overcome the interference exerted by salient-but irrelevant stimuli. Attentional processing can be shaped by experience gained in the past, so that statistical regularities and learned associations can influence attentional selection, by enhancing the processing of stimuli and locations frequently associated with task-relevant information. The present study investigated how attentional and oculomotor capture can be influenced by learned statistical regularities, focusing in particular on the spatial probability of salient but irrelevant distractors. For this purpose, we used a variant of the additional singleton paradigm in which participants had to attend to a colour singleton target, within a visual array of 6 items. Unbeknown to participants, in a predefined proportion of trials, a salient onset distractor was also presented in the display, appearing with different probabilities in one of six possible locations: 2 locations were occupied by the salient onset with High Frequency (HF; 76% of the distractor present trials), while the remaining 4 were occupied by the salient onset with an overall Low Frequency (LF; 24%). Both manual response times and eye-movements were recorded. We found that although manual RTs were significantly slower in distractor present trials, this interference was strongly modulated by distractor location, showing a reduced performance cost when the distractor appeared at HF locations. Consistently, distractors in HF locations led to less powerful oculomotor capture compared to those appearing at LF locations and, under these conditions, the first saccades were more often directed toward the target. These findings suggest that the statistical spatial regularities associated with the attentional filtering of salient distractors modulate attentional and oculomotor performance, reducing the attentional priority of spatial locations that have been systematically associated with distracting events.
Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2018
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