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Taking a closer look at visual search: Just how feature-agnostic is singleton detection mode?

Harris, Anthony M; Jacoby, Oscar; Remington, Roger W; Travis, Susan L; Mattingley, Jason B.
Atten Percept Psychophys ; 81(3): 654-665, 2019 Apr.
Artículo en Inglés | MEDLINE | ID: mdl-30603988
Singleton detection mode is a state in which spatial attention is set to prioritize any objects that differ from all other objects present on any feature dimension. Relatively little research has been devoted to confirming the consequences such a search mode has for stimulus processing. It is often implied that when observers employ singleton detection mode, all singletons capture attention equally, and when observers search for a single feature, only that feature captures attention. The experiment presented here contradicts these implications. We had observers search for colored singleton targets preceded by spatially uninformative colored singleton cues, and we recorded stimulus-evoked neural responses using electroencephalography (EEG). When observers had to respond to targets defined by two possible colors (a task intended to encourage singleton detection mode), cue validity effects were apparent for both target-color cues and irrelevant-color cues, and these effects were accompanied by an N2pc in the EEG data. Importantly, however, the target-color cues evoked significantly larger cue validity effects and N2pc components than did the irrelevant-color cues. In contrast, when observers had to respond to targets defined by one color (a task intended to encourage feature search mode), only cues of that color evoked a cue validity effect. Interestingly, the N2pcs produced by irrelevant cues did not differ between feature and singleton search, suggesting that the behavioral difference was not due to different attentional orienting. Rather, we suggest that behavioral singleton capture is due to a diminished same-location cost being produced by irrelevant-color cues.