Academic journal article Attention, Perception and Psychophysics

Attention Is Captured by Distractors That Uniquely Correspond to Controlled Objects: An Analysis of Movement Trajectories

Academic journal article Attention, Perception and Psychophysics

Attention Is Captured by Distractors That Uniquely Correspond to Controlled Objects: An Analysis of Movement Trajectories

Article excerpt

Published online: 3 December 2014

© The Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2014

Abstract When reaching for a particular target, movements tend to deviate toward distractors. Previously, we have shown that cursor movements deviate to a greater degree toward distractors when the distractor color corresponds to that of the cursor and the target color does not, even when this relationship is task-irrelevant (Miles & Proctor, 2011). In the present study, we investigated whether this correspondence effect is due to attention capture or to the activation of responses based on the task response rules associated with the colors of the distractor and target (viz. a flanker effect). Participants moved a central rectangular cursor to an upper left or upper right location, depending on the cursor color. The colors of the target (correct response side) and distractor (incorrect response side) were independent from one another and were either corresponding or noncorresponding with respect to the cursor color. In Experiment 1, reaction times were delayed when the distractor color corresponded to that of the cursor, but only when the target color did not correspond to the cursor color. No color correspondence effect was found for movement trajectories or movement times. However, in Experiment 2, when responses were time-pressured, initial movements toward the distractor were much more common when the distractor color exclusively corresponded to the cursor color. On the basis of these results, we argue that attention capture best explains the increased tendency to move a controlled object to a distractor that uniquely shares its features.

Keywords Attentional capture . Goal-directed movements . Perception and action

When reaching to one of an array of potential targets, movements tend to deviate toward neighboring distractors in other potential target locations (Song & Nakayama, 2009;Spivey, Grosjean, & Knoblich, 2005; Tipper, Howard, & Houghton, 1998; Tipper, Lortie, & Baylis, 1992; Welsh & Elliott, 2004). Most of the reaching studies above have placed emphasis on the location, number, and type of distractor. The properties of the object that is controlled during the movement-often some variant of a computer cursor-are largely ignored. However, the correspondence, or match, between the features of the controlled object and those of the intended target and other distractors in the environment may also influence response selection, which would be reflected in response latencies and movement trajectories. These situations are commonplace; for example, most sorting tasks involve identifying some specific feature of an object and, on the basis of that feature, selecting the correct location at which to place the object. The potential goal location may contain features that correspond (match) or do not correspond (mismatch) to those of the object, even if the features are irrelevant to the task itself.

Evidence already exists that certain types of distractors influence movement trajectories when they share physical or conceptual similarities with the targets (e.g., Finkbeiner & Friedman, 2011; Song & Nakayama, 2006; Welsh, 2011; Welsh & Elliott, 2004). For example, Welsh (2011) found that an invalid cue immediately prior to movement to a target location caused movements to deviate in its direction, but only when the cue included the same feature that was used to select the target. Miles and Proctor (2011) also showed that the relation between the cursor and distractor colors influenced responses. Participants moved a colored cursor (red or green) to a rectangle on the left or right side of a display (the target) while ignoring a rectangle on the opposite side (the distractor); one of the rectangles was red and the other was green. Responses were slower and deviated toward the distractor side when the distractor matched the color of the cursor, even when the color correspondence was irrelevant to task performance. …

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