Probability cueing of singleton-distractor locations in visual search: Priority-map- versus dimension-based inhibition?

Research paper by Bei B Zhang, Fredrik F Allenmark, Heinrich René HR Liesefeld, Zhuanghua Z Shi, Hermann J HJ Müller

Indexed on: 09 Jan '20Published on: 31 May '19Published in: Journal of experimental psychology. Human perception and performance


Observers can learn the likely locations of salient distractors in visual search, reducing their potential to cause interference. Although there is agreement that this involves positional suppression of the likely distractor location(s), it is contentious at which stage the suppression operates: the search-guiding priority map, which integrates feature-contrast signals (e.g., generated by a red among green or a diamond among circular items) across dimensions, or the distractor-defining dimension. On the latter, dimension-based account (Sauter, Liesefeld, Zehetleitner, & Müller, 2018), processing of, say, a shape-defined target should be unaffected by distractor suppression when the distractor is defined by color, because in this case only color signals would be suppressed. At odds with this, Wang and Theeuwes (2018a) found slowed processing of the target when it appeared at the likely (vs. an unlikely) distractor location, consistent with priority-map-based suppression. Adopting their paradigm, the present study replicated this target location effect. Crucially, however, changing the paradigm by making the target appear as likely at the frequent as at any of the rare distractor locations and making the distractor/nondistractor color assignment consistent abolished the target location effect, without impacting the reduced interference for distractors at the frequent location. These findings support a flexible locus of spatial distractor suppression-priority-map- or dimension-based-depending on the prominence of distractor cues provided by the paradigm. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved).