Time-Course of Feature-Based Top-Down Control in Saccadic Distractor Effects

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Saccadic reaction time (SRT) is more strongly slowed by target-similar than dissimilar distractors (similarity effect). The time course of this similarity effect was investigated by varying target contrast and analyzing SRT distributions. With foveal distractors, the similarity effect increased with increasing SRT, suggesting that top-down enhancement of target features increased over time. This allowed for successful saccades to the peripheral target, but also entailed larger distraction by target-similar stimuli. Similarity effects with peripheral distractors did not increase with SRT, which we attribute to location-based inhibition containing the growing enhancement of target features. Strong inhibition was likely with peripheral distractors because they always appeared at the same task-irrelevant location. Prior inhibition with foveal distractors was weaker because this would have partially released fixation and entailed anticipations.

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