Attentional capture by irrelevant color singletons


Four experiments investigated attentional capture by a color singleton in visual search for a nonsingleton target. B. S. Gibson and E. M. Kelsey (1998) found that a color singleton in a precuing array facilitated target discrimination at that location if the same color also signaled the target array onset. The authors found similar cuing effects regardless of whether the singleton color matched the target array and regardless of whether subjects could anticipate the singleton or target-array color. In Experiment 4, a color singleton captured attention when it appeared in the precuing array but not when it appeared in the target array. The results indicate that attentional control settings for displaywide attributes are imprecise: Although subjects may anticipate a specific color, they cannot avoid attentional capture by other irrelevant colors. In addition, the effect of irrelevant singletons depends on whether a target is simultaneously present in the array.

Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 27(4), 841–847