Adult Visual Cognition Laboratory

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The central theme of research in the Adult Visual Cognition Lab is visual selective attention.   Within that general context, the lab engages in three primary lines of research:  (1) attentional capture (2) aging effects on selective attention and (3) applied research on selective attention.

Attentional Capture

            Although the visual world consists of multiple sources of information, there are fundamental limits on the ability to process multiple stimuli simultaneously. Thus, a selection mechanism is needed that controls the allocation of limited processing (attentional) resources. This mechanism is subject to two competing constraints. One the one hand, efficiency dictates that only those events relevant to current behavioral goals receive attentional resources. On the other hand, adaptability requires allocation of attention to salient stimuli or events that may be relevant to the establishment of new goals. How does the attentional control system manage to satisfy both efficiency and adaptability to produce successful interaction with the environment? For the last ten years, this lab has been exploring a model of attentional control based on the concept of conditional automaticity. The basic premise of the model is that salient stimuli have the potential to elicit the automatic "capture" of attentional resources, but that such attentional capture is ultimately contingent on a strategic attentional "set" or "control setting" for the eliciting property.   We have explored this model in the context of spatial as well as non-spatial attention allocation.

Contingent capture of spatial attention  

            Evidence for contingent capture of spatial attention comes primarily from a modified spatial cuing paradigm, in which irrelevant location precues appear 150 ms prior to a search display.  The precue can appear at same location as the subsequent target, or a different location, but over trials, the location of the precue and target are uncorrelated.  Thus, if a precue that appears at the target location produces faster target responses than a precue appearing at a non-target location, we assume the cue has involuntarily attracted spatial attention to it's location.  The properties that define both the precue and target are also systematically manipulated, such that sometimes they are defined by the same property, and sometimes by different properties. 

             In a series of studies using this methodology, we have shown that when the precue and target are defined by the same property (e.g., the same color), the precue produces evidence of attentional capture.  When defined by different properties, however, there is no evidence of capture.  It is this basic pattern that provide support for the notion that attentional capture by a given stimulus is contingent on whether that stimulus carries properties that match top-down attentional control settings for the target property.

Folk, C. L., & Remington, R.  (2006).  Top-down modulation of preattentive processing:  Testing the recovery account of contingent capture.  Visual Cognition, 14, 445-465. 

Folk, C. L., Leber, A. & Egeth, H. (2002).   Made you blink!  Contingent attentional capture produces a spatial blink.  Perception & Psychophysics, 64, 741-753.

Remington, R. W., Folk, C. L., & McClean, J. (2001).  Contingent attentional capture or delayed allocation of attention?  Perception & Psychophysics, 63, 298-307. 

Folk, C. L., & Remington, R. W. (1999).  Can new objects overrride attentional control settings?  Perception & Psychophysics, 61, 727-739. 

Folk, C. L., & Remington, R. W. (1998).  Selectivity in attentional capture by featural singletons: Evidence for two forms of attentional capture.  Journal of Experimental Psychology:  Human Perception and Performance, 24, 847-858.

Folk, C. L., & Annett, S. (1994).  Do locally defined feature discontinuities capture attention? Perception & Psychophysics, 56, 277-287. 

Folk, C. L., Remington, R. W., & Wright, J. H.  (1994).  The structure of attentional control:  Contingent attentional capture by apparent motion, abrupt onset, and color.  Journal of Experimental Psychology:  Human Perception and Performance, 20, 317-329. 

Folk, C. L., Remington, R. W., & Johnston, J. C.  (1993). Contingent attentional capture:  A reply to Yantis (1993). Journal of Experimental Psychology:  Human Perception and Performance, 19, 682-685. 

Folk, C. L., Remington, R. W., & Johnston, J. C.  (1992). Involuntary covert orienting is contingent on attentional control settings.  Journal of Experimental Psychology:  Human Perception and Performance, 18, 1030-1044.

Contingent Capture of Non-Spatial Attention

     In addition to our work on the capture of spatial attention, we have also studied the contingent capture of non-spatial attention using the "Attentional Blink" paradigm.  In the typical experiment subjects are presented with a rapid series of letters appearing in a box a fixation.  The target letter, which subjects are to report after the stream is complete, is typically defined by a particular color.  At various time interval prior to target presentation, the box surrounding the letters is briefly changed to a color that either does, or does not, match the subsequent target color.  We have found that this irrelevant, "distracting event" produces a decrement in target report (i.e., and "attentional blink") if it occurs within about 500 ms of the target, but only when the distractor matches the target color.   We have interpreted this result as reflecting the contingent capture of non-spatial attention in time.

Folk, C. L., Leber, A. & Egeth, H. (in revision).   Top-down control settings and the attentional blink:  Evidence for non-spatial contingent capture.  Visual Cognition.

Folk, C. L., Leber, A. & Egeth, H. (2002).   Made you blink!  Contingent attentional capture produces a spatial blink.  Perception & Psychophysics, 64, 741-753.

 

  

 

 

 

 
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