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15-05-2018 | Original Article | Uitgave 7/2019

Psychological Research 7/2019

The impact of temporal contingencies between cue and target onset on spatial attentional capture by subliminal onset cues

Psychological Research > Uitgave 7/2019
Tobias Schoeberl, Ulrich Ansorge


Prior research suggested that attentional capture by subliminal abrupt onset cues is stimulus driven. In these studies, reacting was faster when a searched-for target appeared at the location of a preceding abrupt onset cue compared to when the same target appeared at a location away from the cue (cueing effect), although the earlier onset of the cue was subliminal, because it appeared as one out of three horizontally aligned placeholders with a lead time that was too short to be noticed by the participants. Because the cueing effects seemed to be independent of top–down search settings for target features, the effect was attributed to stimulus-driven attentional capture. However, prior studies did not investigate if participants experienced the cues as useful temporal warning signals and, therefore, attended to the cues in a top–down way. Here, we tested to which extent search settings based on temporal contingencies between cue and target onset could be responsible for spatial cueing effects. Cueing effects were replicated, and we showed that removing temporal contingencies between cue and target onset did not diminish the cueing effects (Experiments 1 and 2). Neither presenting the cues in the majority of trials after target onset (Experiment 1) nor presenting cue and target unrelated to one another (Experiment 2) led to a significant reduction of the spatial cueing effects. Results thus support the hypothesis that the subliminal cues captured attention in a stimulus-driven way.

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