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Ulrich Ansorge, Tobias Schoeberl, Florian Goller; Testing a Priming Account of the Contingent-Capture Effect. Journal of Vision 2019;19(10):139b. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/19.10.139b.
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In the contingent-capture protocol, singleton cues having a target’s searched-for feature capture attention, but cues not having the target’s searched-for feature do not, a result labelled the contingent-capture effect. The contingent-capture effect is usually regarded as evidence for the observers’ ability to establish search settings for certain non-spatial features in a top-down manner. However, in recent years, it has become increasingly clear that selection history is also a powerful mediator of attentional capture. In this vein, it was suggested that contingent-capture effects could emerge as a result of (inter-trial) priming: The idea is that features that have been encountered previously in the target are primed so that cues having these features automatically capture attention in a subsequent encounter. Here, we tested a strong version of the priming account of the contingent-capture effect. We wanted to know whether cues having target features would capture attention when the corresponding features were not part of the instructions (i.e., when the corresponding features were task-irrelevant). Results suggested that a strong version of the priming account of contingent capture is not supported. In five experiments, we found little evidence that the contingent-capture effect could be explained by (inter-trial) priming of task-irrelevant features alone. These results show that processes beyond priming through task-irrelevant features are critical for contingent-capture effects.
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