Statistical Regularities Modulate Attentional Capture

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Abstract

The present study investigated whether statistical regularities can influence visual selection. We used the classic additional singleton task in which participants search for a salient shape singleton while ignoring a color distractor singleton. The color distractor singleton was systematically presented more often in 1 location than in all other locations. For this high-probability location, we found that both the amount of attentional capture by distractors and the efficiency of selecting the target were reduced. There was a spatial gradient of suppression, as the attentional capture effect and the efficiency of selecting the target scaled with the distance from the high-probability location. Some participants were aware of the statistical regularities, but this did not affect the results whatsoever. We interpret these findings as evidence that spatially statistical regularities that are unknown to the observer can influence attention such that locations that have a high probability of containing a distractor are suppressed relative to all other locations.

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