Goal-directed and stimulus-driven control of attention was examined in a visual texture segregation task. Recent published reports have debated the existence and efficiency of goal-directed guidance of attention. Some of this research has focused on the apparent stimulus-driven attentional priority given to salient distractors, even when they are known to be irrelevant to the task. In the present study, subjects searched a texture array for targets defined along one dimension. These displays also included distractors created by variation in an irrelevant dimension. Targets were of three different overall shapes. On each trial, distractors could be the same shape as the target or one of the other two shapes. In two experiments subjects were informed of the overall shape of the target prior to stimulus presentation. In these experiments, distractors that did not match the overall shape of the target caused less interference than distractors that matched the target's shape. In the third experiment, subjects were not informed of the overall shape of the target. In this experiment all distractors caused roughly equal interference. The results of these experiments demonstrate that if subjects are given information about the overall shape of the target, they are able to use this information to reduce interference from distractors that do not match the overall target shape. While acknowledging some stimulus-driven interference, this illustrates a previously unexplored source of goal-directed guidance that can reduce interfering effects of even salient distractors and argues against purely stimulus-driven control of attention.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
- Sensory Systems