Feature-based statistical regularities of distractors modulate attentional capture.

Research paper by Brad T BT Stilwell, Brett B Bahle, Shaun P SP Vecera

Indexed on: 26 Feb '19Published on: 26 Feb '19Published in: Journal of experimental psychology. Human perception and performance


Ignoring salient distracting information is paramount to efficiently guiding attention during visual search. Learning to reject or suppress these strong sources of distraction leads to more effective visual search for targets. Participants can learn to overcome salient distractors if given reliable search regularities. If salient distractors appear in 1 location more frequently than any other, the visual system can use this environmental regularity to reduce attentional capture at the more frequent location (Wang & Theeuwes, 2018). We asked if reduced attentional capture is limited to location-based regularities, or, if the visual attentional system is configured to use feature-based regularities in reducing attentional capture as well. In 4 experiments examining attentional capture by task-irrelevant color singletons, participants searched for a shape singleton target among homogenously colored distractors. Critically, on a proportion of trials, a salient, color singleton distractor was presented. Color singleton distractors that appeared at a frequent location captured attention less than color singleton distractors that appeared at infrequent locations, replicating previous findings. In subsequent experiments we manipulated the frequency of the colors of the color singleton distractors and observed robust increases in capture based on color feature regularities. Despite strong location information, we observed reliable attentional capture attenuation by frequently presented distractor colors. Our results suggest that attentional capture is attenuated by both location and feature information. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved).