Testing the attentional dwelling hypothesis of attentional capture

Dominique Lamy*, Maia Darnell, Adva Levi, Carmel Bublil

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Researchers are strongly divided as to whether abrupt onsets capture spatial attention in a purely stimulus-driven fashion or contingent on their search goals. Recently, Gaspelin, Ruthruff and Lien (2016) offered a resolution of this debate by showing that whether spatial capture by abrupt onsets is observed in a spatial cueing search task critically depends on search difficulty. To account for these findings, they proposed an "attentional dwelling" hypothesis, according to which, following capture by a cue, attention dwells at the cued location until the object subsequently appearing at that location is identified as the target or rejected as a distractor. A critical prediction of this account is that the more similar to the target the distractor at the cued location, the longer attention should dwell at its location. Yet, Gaspelin et al. (2016) did not test this prediction because they manipulated overall search difficulty rather than the difficulty of rejecting a specific distractor. The present study provides a critical test of the attentional dwelling hypothesis, by also varying target-distractor similarity within a trial rather than only between trials. Although we closely replicated these authors' findings, the dwelling hypothesis passed the critical test in one of our two experiments. To accommodate the entire pattern of results observed here, we tentatively suggest a priority-accumulation framework, according to which cue validity effects do not necessarily index spatial shifts of attention, but instead, how much the cue speeds the resolution of the competition between the target and distractors in the search display.

Original languageEnglish
Article number43
JournalJournal of Cognition
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2018


FundersFunder number
Israel Science Foundation1286/16


    • Attention
    • Visual perception
    • Visual search


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