Influence of single and multiple onset distractors on visual search for singleton targets

Arthur F. Kramer, Nicholas D. Cassavaugh, David E. Irwin, Matthew S. Peterson, Sowon Hahn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In three experiments, we examined attentional and oculomotor capture by single and multiple abrupt onsets in a singleton search paradigm. Subjects were instructed to move their eyes as quickly as possible to a color singleton target and to identify a small letter located inside of it. In Experiment 1, task-irrelevant sudden onsets appeared simultaneously on half the trials with the presentation of the color singleton target. Response times (RTs) were longer when onsets appeared in the display regardless of the number of onsets. Eye-scan strategies were also disrupted by the appearance of the onset distractors, although the proportion of trials on which the eyes were directed to the onsets was the same regardless of the number of onsets. In Experiment 2, we manipulated the time of presentation of two task-irrelevant onsets in order to further examine whether multiple onsets would be attended and fixated prior to attending a color singleton target. Again, subjects made a saccade to a task-irrelevant onset on a substantial proportion of trials prior to fixating the target. However, saccades to the second onset were rare. Experiment 3 served as a replication of Experiment 1 but without the requirement for subjects to move their eyes to detect and identify the singleton target. The RT results were consistent with those in Experiment 1; dual onsets had no larger an effect on response speed than single onset distractors. These data are discussed in terms of the interaction between top-down and bottom-up control of attention and the eyes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)952-968
Number of pages17
JournalPerception and Psychophysics
Issue number6
StatePublished - Aug 2001

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Sensory Systems
  • Psychology(all)

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