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Masked-target recovery requires focused attention on the target object

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Flashing a homogeneous light mask after the presentation of a masked target reduces the deleterious effects of the mask, a phenomenon often called target recovery. Target recovery has been studied using masking paradigms in which a target object is presented in isolation prior to the presentation of a mask, thus capturing attention. In the present study, we examined whether target recovery is possible when a target does not benefit from attentional capture. We hypothesized that target recovery would be eliminated when a target must compete with distractors for perceptual attention. Replicating classic studies, we observed target recovery when pattern and light masks followed an isolated target. However, target recovery was not observed when a light mask followed a masked visual search target. Furthermore, using an attentional-capture paradigm we found that sudden onset search targets were recoverable whereas nononset targets were not. The present findings indicate that attentional capture by a target prior to masking plays a critical role in the subsequent recovery of the target.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN, USA 2: Yale University, New Haven, CT, USA

Publication date: May 1, 2007


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