New objects do not capture attention without a sensory transient

Andrew Hollingworth, Daniel J. Simons, Steven L. Franconeri

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Attention capture occurs when a stimulus event involuntarily recruits attention. The abrupt appearance of a new object is perhaps the most well-studied attention-capturing event, yet there is debate over the root cause of this capture. Does a new object capture attention because it involves the creation of a new object representation or because its appearance creates a characteristic luminance transient? The present study sought to resolve this question by introducing a new object into a search display, either with or without a unique luminance transient. Contrary to the results of a recent study (Davoli, Suszko, & Abrams, 2007), when the new object's transient was masked by a brief interstimulus interval introduced between the placeholder and search arrays, a new object did not capture attention. Moreover, when a new object's transient was masked, participants could not locate a new object efficiently even when that was their explicit goal. Together, these data suggest that luminance transient signals are necessary for attention capture by new objects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1298-1310
Number of pages13
JournalAttention, Perception, and Psychophysics
Issue number5
StatePublished - Jul 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Sensory Systems
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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