The visual system relies on several heuristics to direct attention to important locations and objects. One of these mechanisms directs attention to sudden changes in the environment. Although a substantial body of research suggests that this capture of attention occurs only for the abrupt appearance of a new perceptual object, more recent evidence shows that some luminance-based transients (e.g., motion and looming) and some types of brightness change also capture attention. These findings show that new objects are not necessary for attention capture. The present study tested whether they are even sufficient. That is, does a new object attract attention because the visual system is sensitive to new objects or because it is sensitive to the transients that new objects create? In two experiments using a visual search task, new objects did not capture attention unless they created a strong local luminance transient.
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