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Static items are automatically prioritized in a dynamic environment

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Everyday experience provides us with the intuition that dynamic events guide or capture attention—something which has been confirmed in experimental studies. Recently, we showed that there are limitations to the extent to which dynamic items attract attention. In a visual search task where all items, except one, were dynamic, the dynamic items could be ignored and the static item could be efficiently detected. In the present study we investigated whether attention is automatically drawn to the static item. Three visual search experiments, in which the target and the static object were uncorrelated, revealed that the static item was nevertheless prioritized. This result is at odds with some of the current theories on attentional capture, including the “new object” hypothesis. The current study suggests that differences in dynamics, rather than dynamic features per se, determine where attention is allocated.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of Cognitive Psychology, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Publication date: November 1, 2007


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