Typicality modulates attentional capture by object categories

Abstract

What we pay attention to in the visual environment is often driven by what we know about the world. For example, a number of studies have found that observers can adopt attentional sets for a particular semantic category. However, some objects are more typical members of a category than others. While previous evidence suggests that an object’s typicality can influence the guidance of attention in visual search, it is unclear whether typicality can also influence the capture of attention. To test whether this is the case, participants were given a category of objects at the beginning of each trial. Then, a rapid serial visual presentation (RSVP) stream was presented at fixation, and participants had to indicate whether an object of the given category was present or absent from the stream. Importantly, a single flanker image also appeared above or below the central stream just before the target. This flanker could belong either to the same category as the target or a different category, and could be a typical or atypical exemplar of that category. Participants were less accurate at detecting the target when the flanker belonged to the same category as the target. Moreover, participants were even less accurate when the flanker was a typical exemplar of this category. Similar findings were observed when targets consisted of typical and atypical exemplars. Together, these findings indicate that the extent of attentional capture toward a distractor depends on whether the distractor matches the category and typicality of one’s attentional set.

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Acknowledgements

This research was supported by a research grant from the Natural Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada Discovery Grant 2016-06359 to Jay Pratt. The authors would like to thank Brett Cochrane for his help with the programming of Experiment 1.

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Correspondence to Y. Isabella Lim.

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Appendices

Appendix 1

Raincloud plots for target-present (a) and target-absent (b) accuracy data in Experiment 1

figurea

Each plot displays each participant’s mean accuracy score per condition, the overall median, the first and third quartiles, and the probability density of the distribution.

Appendix 2

Raincloud plots for target-present (a) and target-absent (b) accuracy data in Experiment 2

figureb

Each plot displays each participant’s mean accuracy score per condition, the overall median, the first and third quartiles, and the probability density of the distribution.

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Lim, Y.I., Clement, A. & Pratt, J. Typicality modulates attentional capture by object categories. Atten Percept Psychophys (2021). https://doi.org/10.3758/s13414-020-02233-6

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Keywords

  • Attentional capture
  • Memory: Long-term memory
  • Categorization