Is Statistical Learning of a Salient Distractor's Color Implicit, Inflexible and Distinct From Inter-Trial Priming?

Aidai Golan*, Dominique Lamy

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Being able to overcome distraction by salient distractors is critical in order to allocate our attention efficiently. Previous research showed that observers can learn to ignore salient distractors endowed with some regularity, such as a high-probability location or feature - a phenomenon known as distractor statistical learning. Unlike goal-directed attentional guidance, the bias induced by statistical learning is thought to be implicit, long-lasting and inflexible. We tested these claims with regard to statistical learning of distractor color in a high-power (N = 160) pre-registered experiment. Participants searched for a known-shape singleton target and a color singleton distractor, when present, appeared most often in one color during the learning phase, but equally often in all possible colors during the extinction phase. We used a sensitive measure of participants' awareness of the probability manipulation. The awareness test was administered after the extinction phase for one group, and after the leaning phase for another group - which was informed that the probability imbalance would be discontinued in the upcoming extinction phase. Participants learned to suppress the high-probability distractor color very fast, an effect partly due to intertrial priming. Crucially, there was only little evidence that the bias survived during extinction. Awareness of the manipulation was associated with reduced color suppression, suggesting that the bias was implicit. Finally, results showed that the awareness test was more sensitive when administered early vs. late. We conclude that learnt color suppression is an implicit bias that emerges and decays rapidly, and discuss the methodological implications of our findings.

Original languageEnglish
Article number47
JournalJournal of Cognition
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2022


FundersFunder number
Israel Science Foundation2449/21


    • Color suppression
    • attentional guidance
    • awareness
    • intertrial priming
    • selection history
    • statistical learning
    • visual search


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