The attentional white bear phenomenon: The mandatory allocation of attention to expected distractor locations

Yehoshua Tsal*, Tal Makovski

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The authors devised a prestimulus-probe method to assess the allocation of attention as a function of participants' top-down expectancies concerning distractor and target locations. Participants performed the flanker task, and distractor locations remained fixed. On some trials, instead of the flanker display, either 2 simultaneous dots or a horizontal line appeared. The dot in the expected distractor location was perceived to occur before the dot in the expected empty location, and the line appeared to extend from the expected distractor location to the expected empty location, suggesting that attention is allocated to expected distractor locations prior to stimulus onset. The authors propose that a process-all mechanism guides attention to expected locations of all stimuli regardless of task demands and that this constitutes a major cause for failures of selective attention.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)351-363
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance
Volume32
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 2006

Keywords

  • Distractor interference
  • Early and late selection
  • Flanker task
  • Selective attention
  • Visual attention

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