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Lana Mrkonja, Brian A. Anderson; Oculomotor Feedback Rapidly Reduces Attentional Capture. Journal of Vision 2021;21(9):2442. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/jov.21.9.2442.
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Prior research has demonstrated that people have limited awareness of their oculomotor movements during scene viewing and visual search. Furthermore, individuals have some awareness of when their attention is captured by a salient-but-irrelevant stimulus, but this awareness is limited and incomplete. The present study aimed to assess whether raising an individual’s awareness of oculomotor capture could enhance their ability to resist such capture. We examined this using a novel near-real-time oculomotor feedback manipulation during a visual search task in which participants looked for a shape-defined target while trying to ignore physically salient color-singleton distractors. The search display consisted of six shapes, one of which was always different than the other five (a circle among diamonds, or vice-versa), which served as the target. On distractor-absent trials, all shapes were colored in either red or green. On distractor-present trials, one of the non-target shapes was colored differently from the other shapes, serving as a salient distractor. Half of the participants were instructed to saccade to the target and ignore the colored distractors. The other half of the participants were similarly instructed to ignore the distractors but were also informed that the computer would emit a tone if they looked at the distractor (auditory feedback condition). This auditory feedback provided immediate awareness to when attention had been captured. The results indicate that the frequency of oculomotor capture was significantly reduced in the feedback group compared to the no-feedback group, as was the cost in oculomotor response time attributable to the distractor for target-going saccades (a measure of covert attention). These findings demonstrate a causal link between feedback concerning oculomotor capture and the ability to resist such capture.
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