Distractors less salient than targets capture attention rather than producing non-spatial filtering costs.


Distractors that are less salient than the target evoke reaction time interference in the distractor search paradigm. Here, we investigated whether this interference indeed results from spatial attentional capture or merely from non-spatial filtering costs. Target and distractor salience was manipulated parametrically and the modulation of reaction time interference by the distance between both stimuli was taken as an indicator of attentional capture. For distractors that were less salient than the target, we found distance to be predictive of reaction time interference. Moreover, this relationship was modulated by the difference in relative salience of target and distractor: the less salient the distractor was compared to the target, the weaker was the influence of distance. These results are in accordance with the sequential sampling model of salience-based selection by Zehetleitner et al. (Zehetleitner, M., Koch, A.I., Goschy, H., Müller, H.J., 2013. Salience-based selection: Interference by distractors less salient than the target. PLoS ONE 8: e52595.). This model assumes the salience map to be computed by noisy accumulation of sensory evidence. As a result, the salience map output fluctuates around its true value and less salient locations can be denoted as most salient. A distractor less salient than the target can therefore capture attention with a certain probability. We conclude that reaction time interference by less salient distractors in the distractor search paradigm is a result of attentional capture in a proportion of trials, rather than a result of non-spatial filtering costs.

DOI: 10.1016/j.actpsy.2013.04.023

Cite this paper

@article{Koch2013DistractorsLS, title={Distractors less salient than targets capture attention rather than producing non-spatial filtering costs.}, author={Anja Isabel Koch and Hermann J. M{\"{u}ller and Michael Zehetleitner}, journal={Acta psychologica}, year={2013}, volume={144 1}, pages={61-72} }