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Capture versus suppression of attention by salient singletons: electrophysiological evidence for an automatic attend-to-me signal.

Authors
  • Sawaki, Risa
  • Luck, Steven J
Type
Published Article
Journal
Attention Perception & Psychophysics
Publisher
Springer - Psychonomic Society
Publication Date
Aug 01, 2010
Volume
72
Issue
6
Pages
1455–1470
Identifiers
DOI: 10.3758/APP.72.6.1455
PMID: 20675793
Source
Medline
License
Unknown

Abstract

There is considerable controversy about whether salient singletons capture attention in a bottom-up fashion, irrespective of top-down control settings. One possibility is that salient singletons always generate an attention capture signal, but this signal can be actively suppressed to avoid capture. In the present study, we investigated this issue by using event-related potential recordings, focusing on N2pc (N2-posterior-contralateral; a measure of attentional deployment) and Pd (distractor positivity; a measure of attentional suppression). Participants searched for a specific letter within one of two regions, and irrelevant color singletons were sometimes present. We found that the irrelevant singletons did not elicit N2pc but instead elicited Pd; this occurred equally within the attended and unattended regions. These findings suggest that salient singletons may automatically produce an attend-to-me signal, irrespective of top-down control settings, but this signal can be overridden by an active suppression process to prevent the actual capture of attention.

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