Dynamic Inhibitory Control Prevents Salience-Driven Capture of Visual Attention

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Scholarly level: 
Graduate student (PhD)
Final version published as: 

Tay, D., Jannati, A., Green, J. J., & McDonald, J. J. (2002). Dynamic inhibitory control prevents salience-driven capture of visual attention. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance. 48 (1). 37-51.  https://doi.org/10.1037/xhp0000972

Date created: 
DOI: 10.1037/xhp0000972
Attention capture
Event-related potentials

The salience-driven selection theory is comprised of three main tenets: (a) the most salient stimulus within a monitored region of the visual field captures attention, (b) the only way to prevent salience-driven distraction is by narrowly focusing attention elsewhere, and (c) all other goal-driven processes are possible only after the most salient item has been attended. Evidence for and against this theory has been provided from two experimental paradigms. Here, event-related potentials (ERPs) recorded in a novel Go/No-Go paradigm disconfirmed all three of tenets of the theory. Participants were instructed to search cyan-item displays for a salient orientation singleton (Go trials) and to ignore randomly intermixed yellow-item displays that could also contain an orientation singleton (No-Go trials). ERP components associated with attentional orienting (N2pc), distractor suppression (PD), and stimulus relevance (P2a) were isolated to test predictions stemming from the salience-driven selection theory. On No-Go trials, the salient oddball elicited a PD rather than an N2pc, indicating that it was suppressed, not attended. Moreover, a P2a emerged before the N2pc on Go trials, demonstrating that observers first evaluated the global color of each display and then decided to search for the oddball (Go trials) or to ignore it (No-Go trials). We conclude that goal-driven processes can lead to the prevention of salience-driven attention capture by salient visual objects within the attentional window.

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