Made you blink! Contingent attentional capture produces a spatial blink

Charles L. Folk, Andrew B. Leber, Howard E. Egeth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Previous studies have shown that the capture of attention by an irrelevant stimulus can be eliminated by foreknowledge of the spatial location of the relevant target stimulus. To explore whether spatial certainty is sufficient to eliminate capture, four experiments are reported in which the spatial location of the target is certain but the temporal position is uncertain. Subjects viewed a central rapid serial visual presentation stream in which a target letter was defined by a particular color (e.g., red). On critical trials, irrelevant color singletons appeared in the periphery. In Experiments 1 and 2, peripheral singletons produced a decrement in central target identification that was contingent on the match between the singleton color and the target color. Experiments 3 and 4 provided evidence that this decrement reflected a shift of spatial attention to the location of the distractor. The results suggest that spatial certainty is not sufficient to eliminate attentional capture and that attentional capture can result in a spatial "blink" that is conditional on top-down attentional control settings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)741-753
Number of pages13
JournalPerception and Psychophysics
Issue number5
StatePublished - Jul 2002

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Sensory Systems
  • Psychology(all)

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