Stimulus-driven attentional capture: An empirical comparison of display-size and distance methods

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Four experiments examined attentional capture by colour as assessed by two different investigative methods. Subjects performed a visual search task for a vertical-target line embedded among tilted-distractor lines, presented inside 4, 8, or 12 coloured discs. Interestingly, when the colour singleton was task irrelevant, and data were analysed by means of the display-size method combined with the zero-slope criterion, no evidence for attentional capture by colour was found. However, when data were analysed by means of the distance method, which consists of monitoring the spatial relationship between the target and the singleton, results showed that the target was found faster and/or more accurately when it was inside the singleton than when it was in a nonsingleton location. This provided evidence for a stimulus-driven attentional capture. In addition, the application of signal detection methodology showed that attentional capture, as revealed by the distance method, resulted from a perceptual modulation at the singleton location, rather than from a criterion shift. We conclude that, at least with the kind of stimuli used here, the display-size method combined with the zero-slope criterion is less than ideal for investigating how static discontinuities can affect the automatic deployment of visual attention.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: University of Trento Rovereto Italy 2: University of Padua Italy

Publication date: February 1, 2004

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