Attentional Capture

Attention, Perception and Psychophysics, July 2013 | Go to article overview

Attentional Capture


Statistical regularities draw attention

Zhao J., Al-Aidroos N., & Turk-Browne N.B. (2013). Attention is spontaneously biased toward regularities. Psychological Science, 24(5), 667-677.

Have you ever found yourself unintentionally humming along with music that you have never heard before? Sometimes it seems like those little sequences of notes and rhythms that repeat in music can get your attention just as much as an unexpected cadence. While there is extensive literature demonstrating that attention is drawn to novelty, recent research by Zhao, Al-Aidroos and Turk-Browne demonstrates the opposite: that attention is also drawn to regularity. Statistical regularity was created by the temporal pattern of novel shapes that appeared in a visual stream of objects. Previous research on statistical learning has demonstrated implicit learning of temporal patterns such as these, showing that people can reliably discriminate between those patterns seen before and the identical objects in a different sequence. The new step forward in this field was to demonstrate that statistical regularities are not only learned, but attended to more than randomness. In three experiments, the researchers embedded visual search tasks in either random or temporally patterned streams. The type of pattern varied across experiments, testing triplets of black shapes next to random shapes (Exp. 1), triplets of shapes in one color interleaved with random shapes of another color (Exp. …

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