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Journal Article

The roles of feature-specific task set and bottom-up salience in attentional capture: An ERP study


Sauter,  Disa
Comparative Cognitive Anthropology, MPI for Psycholinguistics, Max Planck Society;
School of Psychology, Birkbeck College, University of London, UK;

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Eimer, M., Kiss, M., Press, C., & Sauter, D. (2009). The roles of feature-specific task set and bottom-up salience in attentional capture: An ERP study. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 35, 1316-1328. doi:10.1037/a0015872.

Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-0013-DCD1-E
We investigated the roles of top-down task set and bottom-up stimulus salience for feature-specific attentional capture. ERPs and behavioural performance were measured in two experiments where spatially nonpredictive cues preceded visual search arrays that included a colour-defined target. When cue arrays contained a target-colour singleton, behavioural spatial cueing effects were accompanied by a cue-induced N2pc component, indicative of attentional capture. Behavioural cueing effects and N2pc components were only minimally attenuated for non-singleton relative to singleton target-colour cues, demonstrating that top-down task set has a much greater impact on attentional capture than bottom-up salience. For nontarget-colour singleton cues, no N2pc was triggered, but an anterior N2 component indicative of top-down inhibition was observed. In Experiment 2, these cues produced an inverted behavioural cueing effect, which was accompanied by a delayed N2pc to targets presented at cued locations. These results suggest that perceptually salient visual stimuli without task-relevant features trigger a transient location-specific inhibition process that prevents attentional capture, but delays the selection of subsequent target events.