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Automaticity and the capture of attention by a peripheral display change

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Abstract

The proposal that peripheral visual changes (cues) tend to summon attention automatically was tested by studying the effect of peripheral cueing on simple detection latency. Delay between cue onset and target onset, the contingent relationship between cue location and target location, and instructions to subjects were manipulated. Results showed that a peripheral display change could capture attention even when the target was far more likely to appear at an uncued location. When subjects were explicitly informed that targets were likely to appear away from the cued location they were able to suppress this effect, but were unable completely to reverse it by rapidly orienting attention towards the uncued side. Hence the process appears to be automatic in the sense that it occurs unless there are explicit instructions to the contrary. With explicit instructions the processing operation can be suppressed, but not completely reversed.

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This work was supported by the U.K. Admiralty Research Establishment (Research Agreement No. 53482).

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Lambert, A., Spencer, E. & Mohindra, N. Automaticity and the capture of attention by a peripheral display change. Current Psychology 6, 136–147 (1987). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02686618

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