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05-02-2016 | Original Article | Uitgave 2/2017

Psychological Research 2/2017

Activation of context-specific attentional control sets by exogenous allocation of visual attention to the context?

Tijdschrift:
Psychological Research > Uitgave 2/2017
Auteurs:
Caroline Gottschalk, Rico Fischer

Abstract

Different contexts with high versus low conflict frequencies require a specific attentional control involvement, i.e., strong attentional control for high conflict contexts and less attentional control for low conflict contexts. While it is assumed that the corresponding control set can be activated upon stimulus presentation at the respective context (e.g., upper versus lower location), the actual features that trigger control set activation are to date not described. Here, we ask whether the perceptual priming of the location context by an abrupt onset of irrelevant stimuli is sufficient in activating the context-specific attentional control set. For example, the mere onset of a stimulus might disambiguate the relevant location context and thus, serve as a low-level perceptual trigger mechanism that activates the context-specific attentional control set. In Experiment 1 and 2, the onsets of task-relevant and task-irrelevant (distracter) stimuli were manipulated at each context location to compete for triggering the activation of the appropriate control set. In Experiment 3, a prior training session enabled distracter stimuli to establish contextual control associations of their own before entering the test session. Results consistently showed that the mere onset of a task-irrelevant stimulus (with or without a context-control association) is not sufficient to activate the context-associated attentional control set by disambiguating the relevant context location. Instead, we argue that the identification of the relevant stimulus at the respective context is a precondition to trigger the activation of the context-associated attentional control set.

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