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06-10-2021 | Original Article

Spatial cueing effects do not always index attentional capture: evidence for a priority accumulation framework

Auteurs: Maya Darnell, Dominique Lamy

Gepubliceerd in: Psychological Research | Uitgave 5/2022

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Abstract

The spatial cueing paradigm is a popular tool to investigate under what conditions irrelevant objects capture attention against the observer’s intention. In this paradigm, finding better visual search performance when the target appears at the location of an irrelevant cue is taken to indicate that this cue summoned attention to its location, before the search display appeared. Here, we provide evidence challenging this canonical interpretation of spatial-cueing (or cue-validity) effects and supporting the priority accumulation framework (PAF). According to PAF, the cue can bias attention but such bias takes effect only when the relevant context for selection (the search display) appears: attentional priority accumulates over time at each location until the search context triggers selection of the location that has accumulated the highest priority. We used a spatial-cueing paradigm with abruptly onset cues and search displays varying in target–distractor similarity. We found that search performance on valid-cue trials deteriorates the more difficult the search (Experiment 1), and showed that this finding is explained by PAF but cannot be accommodated within the standard interpretation of spatial-cueing effects (Experiment 2). Finally, we assessed the priority accumulated at each location by using a combination of the spatial-cueing and dot-probe paradigms (Experiment 3). We showed that the similarity of the cued object to the target modulates probe detection performance, a finding that is at odds with the standard interpretation of cueing effects and supports PAF’s predictions. We discuss the implications of the findings in resolving existing controversies on the determinants of attentional priority.
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1
In both Gaspelin et al.’s study (2016, Exp.7) and our replications of their experiment (e.g., Exp.1 of the present study), similarity to the target and surface size were confounded, because the target was larger than difficult distractors, which were larger than easy distractors. In addition, when the search display was presented briefly (in Exp.1), some participants reported that in the context of the horizontal ellipses, the perfect circle appeared to be a vertical ellipse. This illusion may have rendered the instruction to look for a perfect circle difficult to follow. To address these issues, all objects were horizontal ellipses occupying the same surface and varying in elongation. Participants were instructed to search for the ellipse that was closest to a circle.
 
2
Hilchey and Pratt (2019) also claimed to expose latent capture by onset cues through statistical learning. Relying on the notion of learned predictiveness (LePelley, Mitchell, Beesley, George & Wills, 2016), they reasoned that participants should pick up on the statistical regularities that exist between an onset cue and the target location only if this onset cue reliably captures attention. However, the learned predictiveness principle stipulates that “attention is biased toward stimuli that predict their consequences reliably” (LePelley et al., 2016) and not that associative learning is possible only for attended stimuli. Thus, it is unclear whether there was “latent capture” by the onset cue before learning occurred.
 
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Metagegevens
Titel
Spatial cueing effects do not always index attentional capture: evidence for a priority accumulation framework
Auteurs
Maya Darnell
Dominique Lamy
Publicatiedatum
06-10-2021
Uitgeverij
Springer Berlin Heidelberg
Gepubliceerd in
Psychological Research / Uitgave 5/2022
Print ISSN: 0340-0727
Elektronisch ISSN: 1430-2772
DOI
https://doi.org/10.1007/s00426-021-01597-0

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