Allocating attention to distractor locations is based on top-down expectations

Aya Lahav, Yehoshua Tsal*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Failures of selective attention may be explained by the attentional white bear (AWB) hypothesis maintaining that prior knowledge of distractor location causes attentional allocation to it. The AWB is demonstrated by embedding infrequent trials of two simultaneous dots among flanker trials. The dot at the expected distractor location is perceived as appearing before the dot at the expected empty location, indicating attentional allocation to expected distractor locations. A major requirement of the AWB hypothesis is that it occurs in a top-down manner due to expectations. We devised a variation of the original AWB experiment, which enabled us to differentiate between the top-down and bottom-up contributions. The results show that top-down expectancies, which are a critical part of the AWB characterization, occur independently of bottom-up contributions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1873-1880
Number of pages8
JournalQuarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2013


  • Attentional white bear
  • Distractor processing
  • Flanker task
  • Selective attention
  • Visual attention


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