Contingent attentional capture or delayed allocation of attention?
Under certain circumstances, external stimuli will elicit an involuntary shift of spatial attention, referred to as attentional capture. According to the contingent involuntary orienting account (Folk, Remington, & Johnston, 1992), capture is conditioned by top-down factors that set attention to respond involuntarily to stimulus properties relevant to one’s behavioral goals. Evidence for this comes from spatial cuing studies showing that a spatial cuing effect is observed only when cues have goal-relevant properties. Here, we examine alternative, decision-level explanations of the spatial cuing effect that attribute evidence of capture to postpresentation delays in the voluntary allocation of attention, rather than to on-line involuntary shifts in direct response to the cue. In three spatial cuing experiments, delayed-allocation accounts were tested by examining whether items at the cued location were preferentially processed. The experiments provide evidence that costs and benefits in spatial cuing experiments do reflect the on-line capture of attention. The implications of these results for models of attentional control are discussed.
KeywordsVisual Search Compatibility Effect Attentional Capture Invalid Trial Color Singleton
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