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      The attentional capture debate: the long-lasting consequences of a misnomer

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      Visual Cognition
      Informa UK Limited

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          Overriding stimulus-driven attentional capture.

          Theeuwes (1992) found a distracting effect of irrelevant-dimension singletons in a task involving search for a known target. He argued from this that selectivity is determined solely by stimulus salience; the parallel stage of visual processing cannot provide top-down guidance to the attentive stage sufficient to permit completely selective use of task-relevant information. We argue that in the task used by Theeuwes, subjects may have adopted the strategy of searching for an odd form even though the specific target form was known. In Experiment 1, we replicated Theeuwes's findings. Search for a circle target among diamond nontargets was disrupted by the presence of a diamond nontarget that was uniquely colored. In two subsequent experiments, we discouraged the singleton detection strategy, forcing subjects to search for the target feature. There was no distracting effect of a color singleton in these experiments, even with displays physically identical to those of Experiment 1, demonstrating that top-down selectivity is indeed possible during visual search. We conclude that goal-directed selection of a specific known featural identity may override stimulus-driven capture by salient featural singletons.
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            Capture versus suppression of attention by salient singletons: electrophysiological evidence for an automatic attend-to-me signal.

            There is considerable controversy about whether salient singletons capture attention in a bottom-up fashion, irrespective of top-down control settings. One possibility is that salient singletons always generate an attention capture signal, but this signal can be actively suppressed to avoid capture. In the present study, we investigated this issue by using event-related potential recordings, focusing on N2pc (N2-posterior-contralateral; a measure of attentional deployment) and Pd (distractor positivity; a measure of attentional suppression). Participants searched for a specific letter within one of two regions, and irrelevant color singletons were sometimes present. We found that the irrelevant singletons did not elicit N2pc but instead elicited Pd; this occurred equally within the attended and unattended regions. These findings suggest that salient singletons may automatically produce an attend-to-me signal, irrespective of top-down control settings, but this signal can be overridden by an active suppression process to prevent the actual capture of attention.
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              Direct Evidence for Active Suppression of Salient-but-Irrelevant Sensory Inputs.

              Researchers have long debated whether attentional capture is purely stimulus driven or purely goal driven. In the current study, we tested a hybrid account, called the signal-suppression hypothesis, which posits that stimuli automatically produce a bottom-up salience signal, but that this signal can be suppressed via top-down control processes. To test this account, we used a new capture-probe paradigm in which participants searched for a target shape while ignoring an irrelevant color singleton. On occasional probe trials, letters were briefly presented inside the search shapes, and participants attempted to report these letters. Under conditions that promoted capture by the irrelevant singleton, accuracy was greater for the letter inside the singleton distractor than for letters inside nonsingleton distractors. However, when the conditions were changed to avoid capture by the singleton, accuracy for the letter inside the irrelevant singleton was reduced below the level observed for letters inside nonsingleton distractors, an indication of active suppression of processing at the singleton location.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Visual Cognition
                Visual Cognition
                Informa UK Limited
                1350-6285
                1464-0716
                October 21 2021
                March 22 2021
                October 21 2021
                : 29
                : 9
                : 544-547
                Affiliations
                [1 ]Department of Psychology, Sagol School of Neuroscience, Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv, Israel
                Article
                10.1080/13506285.2021.1904076
                418bd7d4-e530-4c0c-9a9c-cc0aa024e64e
                © 2021
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