Moving and looming stimuli capture attention

Steven L. Franconeri, Daniel J. Simons

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Attention capture is often operationally defined as speeded search performance when an otherwise nonpredictive stimulus happens to be the target of a visual search. That is, if a stimulus captures attention, it should be searched with priority even when it is irrelevant to the task. Given this definition, only the abrupt appearance of a new object (see, e.g., Jonides & Yantis, 1988) and one type of luminance contrast change (Enns, Austen, Di Lollo, Rauschenberger, & Yantis, 2001) have been shown to strongly capture attention. We show that translating and looming stimuli also capture attention. This phenomenon does not occur for all dynamic events: We also show that receding stimuli do not attract attention. Although the sorts of dynamic events that capture attention do not fit neatly into a single category, we speculate that stimuli that signal potentially behaviorally urgent events are more likely to receive attentional priority.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)999-1010
Number of pages12
JournalPerception and Psychophysics
Issue number7
StatePublished - Oct 2003

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Sensory Systems
  • General Psychology


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