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Y. Isabella Lim, Andrew Clement, Jay Pratt; Typicality Modulates Attentional Capture by Object Categories. Journal of Vision 2020;20(11):467. https://doi.org/10.1167/jov.20.11.467.
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What we pay attention to in our visual environment is often driven by what we know about the world. For example, when we search for objects in our environment, we often adopt a target template based on an object’s category membership rather than its specific visual features. Categorical information informs humans of how objects may be grouped, and our mental representation of categories is thought to be based on exemplars, or the most typical member of a particular category. While the typicality of objects can assist in target identification in visual search, it is unknown whether typicality also affects attentional capture by object categories. To test whether this is the case, participants were given a category of objects at the beginning of each trial. A rapid stream of images was then presented at fixation, and participants were asked to indicate whether a member of the target category was present or absent from the stream. On each trial, a distractor also appeared beside the stream just before the target image. This distractor could belong to the same category or a different category than the target image, and could be a typical or atypical member of either category. Our results showed that when this distractor belonged to the same category as the target image, participants were worse at indicating the presence of the target image. Thus, objects that belonged to the same category as participants’ target template captured attention. Importantly, typical distractors that belonged to the same category as the target image resulted in worse accuracy than atypical distractors. This suggests that the extent of attentional capture towards a distractor can depend on whether the distractor matches one’s target template in terms of category identity and typicality.
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