September 2019
Volume 19, Issue 10
Open Access
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   May 2019
Mere presence effects of entirely task-irrelevant but significant real objects on visual search performances
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Motohiro Ito
    Hokkaido University, Department of Psychology
    Japan Society for the Promotion of Science
  • Jun I Kawahara
    Hokkaido University, Department of Psychology
Journal of Vision May 2019, Vol.19, 313d. doi:
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      Motohiro Ito, Jun I Kawahara; Mere presence effects of entirely task-irrelevant but significant real objects on visual search performances. Journal of Vision 2019;19(10):313d. doi:

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      © ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)

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Researches have shown that attentional selection can be distracted (i.e., attentional capture) momentarily by the presence of biologically, socially, or personally significant objects, such as human faces, emotional expressions, features related to monetary rewords, or calorie-dense foods. A large body of literature on attentional capture demonstrated that attentional capture effect is volatile and time-locked by the onset of distractors. However, recent studies found that a mere presence of a mobile communication device, such as a smartphone, even in no use during tasks, impairs social interactions and cognitive activities for an extended period of time for over 10 minutes when allocation of attention is required. The present study examined whether the mere presence effect of the mobile device can be extended for other significant objects (e.g., money bill) in everyday life during attentionally demanding visual search tasks. Specifically, participants identified a target letter among spatially distributed non-targets through a computer display with which money bills (or notepad as the control) were placed on the left side of the search display. Participants rated their mood before and after the visual search session. The result showed that reaction times under the money-bill presence were longer than those under the control condition, indicating the occurrence of the mere presence effect. The increase in arousal could not account for the results. Moreover, we found no such distraction effects when the money bill was visually concealed from observers by placing them in an envelope (however, participants knew the presence of the bills) and when a photographic image of the money bill was presented in the search display. These results suggest that the mere presence effect can be applicable to the presence of significant objects when the distractor is real and visually available, due to lingering attentional biases based on prior attentional deployments or learning.


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