Psychological Research

, Volume 78, Issue 2, pp 209–221 | Cite as

Contingent capture in cueing: the role of color search templates and cue-target color relations

  • Ulrich AnsorgeEmail author
  • Stefanie I. Becker
Original Article


Visual search studies have shown that attention can be top-down biased to a specific target color, so that only items with this color or a similar color can capture attention. According to some theories of attention, colors from different categories (i.e., red, green, blue, yellow) are represented independently. However, other accounts have proposed that these are related—either because color is filtered through broad overlapping channels (4-channel view), or because colors are represented in one continuous feature space (e.g., CIE space) and search is governed by specific principles (e.g., linear separability between colors, or top-down tuning to relative colors). The present study tested these different views using a cueing experiment in which observers had to select one target color (e.g., red) and ignore two or four differently colored distractors that were presented prior to the target (cues). The results showed clear evidence for top-down contingent capture by colors, as a target-colored cue captured attention more strongly than differently colored cues. However, the results failed to support any of the proposed views that different color categories are related to one another by overlapping channels, linear separability, or relational guidance (N = 96).


Stimulus Onset Asynchrony Target Color Color Category Green Target Contingent Capture 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



Supported by project number CS11-009 of the WWTF (Wiener Wissenschafts- und Technologiefonds) to Ulrich Ansorge, Otmar Scherzer, and Shelley Buchinger, and an ARC (Australian Research Council) Discovery Grant DP110100588 awarded to Stefanie I. Becker.


  1. Ansorge, U., & Becker, S. I. (2012). Automatic priming of attentional control by relevant colors. Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics, 74, 83–104.Google Scholar
  2. Anderson, B. A., & Folk, C. L. (2010). Variations in the magnitude of attentional capture: Testing a two-process model. Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics, 72, 342–352.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Ansorge, U., & Heumann, M. (2003). Top-down contingencies in peripheral cuing: The roles of color and location. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 29, 937–948.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. Ansorge, U., & Heumann, M. (2004). Peripheral cuing by abrupt-onset cues: the influence of color in S-R corresponding conditions. Acta Psychologica, 116(2), 115–143.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Ansorge, U., & Horstmann, G. (2007). Preemptive control of attentional capture by color: Evidence from trial-by-trial analysis and ordering of onsets of capture effects in RT distributions. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 60, 952–975.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Ansorge, U., Kiss, M., & Eimer, M. (2009). Goal-driven attentional capture by invisible colors: Evidence from event-related potentials. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 16, 648–653.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Awh, E., Belopolsky, A. V., & Theeuwes, J. (2012). Top-down versus bottom-up attentional control: A failed dichotomy. Trends in Cognitive Science, 16, 437–443.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bauer, B. G., Jolicoeur, P., & Cowan, W. (1998). The linear separability effect in color visual search: Ruling out the additive color hypothesis. Perception & Psychophysics, 60, 1083–1093.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Becker, S. I. (2007). Irrelevant singletons in pop-out search: Attentional capture or filtering costs? Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 33, 764–787.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. Becker, S. I. (2010a). The role of target–distractor relationships in guiding attention and the eyes in visual search. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 139, 247–265.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Becker, S. I. (2010b). Oculomotor capture by irrelevant colour singletons depends on intertrial priming. Vision Research, 50, 2116–2126.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Becker, S. I., Ansorge, U., & Horstmann, G. (2009). Can intertrial priming account for the similarity effect in visual search? Vision Research, 49, 1738–1756.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Becker, S. I., Folk, C. L., & Remington, R. W. (2010). The role of relational information in contingent capture. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 36, 1460–1476.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  14. Eckstein, M., Drescher, B., & Shimozaki, S. S. (2006). Attentional cues in real scenes, saccadic targeting, and Bayesian priors. Psychological Science, 17, 973–980.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Eimer, M., & Kiss, M. (2008). Involuntary attentional capture is determined by task set: Evidence from event-related brain potentials. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 20, 1423–1433.PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Einhäuser, W., Spain, M., & Perona, P. (2008). Objects predict fixations better than early salience. Journal of Vision, 8, 1–26.Google Scholar
  17. Fecteau, J. (2007). Priming of pop-out depends on the current goals of the observers. Journal of Vision, 7, 1–11.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Folk, C. L., & Remington, R. W. (1998). Selectivity in distraction by irrelevant featural singletons: Evidence for two forms of attentional capture. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 24, 847–858.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  19. Folk, C. L., & Remington, R. W. (2008). Bottom-up priming of top-down attentional control settings. Visual Cognition, 16, 215–231.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Folk, C. L., Remington, R. W., & Johnston, J. C. (1992). Involuntary covert orienting is contingent on attentional control settings. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 18, 1030–1044.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  21. Fortier-Gauthier, U., Dell’Acqua, R., & Jolicœur, P. (2013). The “red-alert” effect in visual search: Evidence from human electrophysiology. Psychophysiology (in press).Google Scholar
  22. Geyer, T., Krummenacher, J., & Müller, H. J. (2008). Expectancies modulate attentional capture by salient color singletons. Vision Research, 48, 1315–1326.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Gilbert, A. L., Regier, T., Kay, P., & Ivry, R. B. (2006). Whorf hypothesis is supported in the right visual field but not in the left. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 103, 489–494.PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Grubert, A., & Eimer, M. (2013). Qualitative differences in the guidance of attention during single-colour and multiple-colour visual search: Behavioural and electrophysiological evidence. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance (in press).Google Scholar
  25. Harris, A., Remington, R. W., & Becker, S. I. (2013). Feature-specificity in attentional capture by size and colour. Journal of Vision (in press).Google Scholar
  26. Hodsoll, J. P., & Humphreys, G. W. (2005). The effect of target foreknowledge on visual search for categorically separable orientation targets. Vision Research, 45, 2346–2351.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Irons, J. L., Folk, C. L., & Remington, R. W. (2012). All set! Evidence of simultaneous attentional control settings for multiple target colors. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 38, 758–775.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  28. Itti, L., & Koch, C. (2001). Computational modelling of visual attention. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 2, 4–11.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Kim, M.-S., & Cave, K. (1999). Top-down and bottom-up attentional control: On the nature of interference from a salient distractor. Perception & Psychophysics, 61, 1009–1013.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Maljkovic, V., & Nakayama, K. (1994). Priming of pop-out: I. Role of features. Memory & Cognition, 22, 657–672.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Müller, H. J., Geyer, T., Zehetleitner, M., & Krummenacher, J. (2009). Attentional capture by salient color singleton distractors is modulated by top-down dimensional set. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 35, 1–16.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  32. Navalpakkam, V., & Itti, L. (2007). Search goal tunes visual features optimally. Neuron, 53, 605–617.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Theeuwes, J. (1992). Perceptual selectivity for color and form. Perception & Psychophysics, 51, 599–606.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Theeuwes, J., Atchley, P., & Kramer, A. F. (2000). On the time course of top-down and bottom-up control of visual attention. In S. Monsell & J. Driver (Eds.), Attention and performance XVIII (pp. 105–125). Cambridge: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  35. Töllner, T., Müller, H., & Zehetleitner, M. (2012). Top-down dimensional weight set determines the capture of visual attention: Evidence from the PCN component. Cerebral Cortex, 22, 1554–1563.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Torralba, A., Oliva, A., Castelhano, M. S., & Henderson, J. M. (2006). Contextual guidance of eye movements and attention in real-world scenes: The role of global features in object search. Psychological Review, 113, 766–786.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Witzel, C., & Gegenfurtner, K. R. (2011). Is there a lateralized category effect for color? Journal of Vision, 11(12), 16.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Wolfe, J. M. (1994). Guided search 2.0: A revised model of visual search. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 1, 202–238.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Worschech, F., & Ansorge, U. (2012). Top-down search for color prevents voluntary directing of attention to informative singleton cues. Experimental Psychology, 59, 153–162.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Yantis, S., & Hillstrom, A. P. (1994). Stimulus-driven attentional capture: Evidence from equiluminant visual objects. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 10, 601–621.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of PsychologyUniversität WienWienAustria
  2. 2.Institute of Cognitive ScienceUniversität OsnabrückOsnabrückGermany
  3. 3.The University of QueenslandBrisbaneAustralia

Personalised recommendations