Attention Capture: The Interplay of Expectations, Attention, and Awareness

Michael S. Ambinder, Daniel J. Simons

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


The term attention capture, in common parlance, has two distinct connotations: (1) it is automatic or stimulus-driven and cannot be overridden by top-down control, and (2) it necessarily leads to awareness of the capturing event. Although both components are common to most intuitive definitions of attention capture, few studies have explored both aspects simultaneously. Studies examining the first component typically do not assess awareness, focusing instead on the implicit effects of a stimulus on performance, for example, response latency. Studies examining the second component typically do not explore the automaticity or inevitability of attention shifts, focusing instead on whether or not unexpected items are explicitly detected. This chapter surveys the central findings from the implicit and explicit capture literatures and examines their interrelation. It discusses ways in which these literatures, when taken together, can lead to a more complete understanding of whether and how attention capture might operate in the real world. In so doing, the influence of expectations, goals, and strategies on both forms of attention capture are also analyzed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationNeurobiology of Attention
Number of pages7
ISBN (Electronic)9780123757319
StatePublished - Jan 1 2005

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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