December 2022
Volume 22, Issue 14
Open Access
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   December 2022
Interactions of sustained attention and visual search
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Kirsten Adam
    University of California San Diego
  • John Serences
    University of California San Diego
  • Footnotes
    Acknowledgements  NSF SBE Fellowship (2104630) to K.A.; NEI grant R01-EY025872 to J.S.
Journal of Vision December 2022, Vol.22, 4355. doi:
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      Kirsten Adam, John Serences; Interactions of sustained attention and visual search. Journal of Vision 2022;22(14):4355.

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

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Attention waxes and wanes from moment to moment, and recent work has shown how fluctuations of sustained attention negatively impact working and long-term memory performance. Here, we tested whether ongoing attentional state influences attentional capture by salient color singleton distractors. To do so, we interleaved a sustained attention task with a visual search task. On each trial of the task, participants saw an array of six colored shapes, and the stimulus shapes indicated whether participants should perform a simple response task or a visual search task. On 80% of trials, the majority of shapes were circles and participants were instructed to press “f” as fast as possible. On 20% of trials, the majority of shapes were diamonds, and participants were instructed to search for the pop-out circle shape and report the orientation of the line inside. Displays appeared at a constant rate every 1.5 seconds, and displays were equally likely to be majority red or green (i.e., stimulus color was unpredictable) and to have a color singleton distractor or not. We found strong evidence that the presence of salient distractors interfered with global, task-general attention. For example, when a salient distractor was present in the search display, participants were more likely to make a commission error (i.e., accidentally press the “f” key instead of reporting a target orientation with the “j” or “k” key, BF= 9.2). Likewise, ongoing attentional state, indexed by response times prior to the search array, robustly predicted commission errors (BF= 409.6). However, we did not observe convincing evidence that ongoing attentional state influenced attentional capture by a salient distractor (BF= 0.37). The lack of an interaction between ongoing attentional state and attentional capture supports a stimulus-driven view of attentional capture whereby higher task-general attention does not allow participants to resist capture.


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