Top-down modulation of preattentive processing: Testing the recovery account of contingent capture

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One highly controversial issue with respect to preattentive processing concerns the degree to which the preattentive detection of “singletons” elicits an involuntary shift of spatial attention (i.e., attentional capture) that is immune from top-down modulation. According to the “pure-capture” perspective, preattentive processing drives the allocation of spatial attention in a purely bottom-up manner, in order of relative salience. According to the “contingent-capture” perspective, preattentive processing can produce attentional capture, but such capture is contingent on whether the eliciting stimulus carries a feature property consistent with the current attentional set. Pure-capture proponents have recently argued that the evidence for contingencies in attentional capture actually reflects the rapid disengagement and recovery from capture. Two spatial cueing experiments tested the rapid recovery by measuring (1) compatibility effects associated with irrelevant distractors and (2) inhibition of return to irrelevant distractors. These two measures provide converging evidence against the rapid recovery account.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Ames Research Center, Villanova University NASA, Villanova, PA, USA

Publication date: August 1, 2006

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