A saliency-specific and dimension-independent mechanism of distractor suppression.
Gong D., Theeuwes J.
During everyday tasks, salient distractors may capture our attention. Recently, it was shown that through implicit learning, capture by a salient distractor is reduced by suppressing the location where a distractor is likely to appear. In the current study, we presented distractors of different saliency levels at the same specific location, asking the question whether there is always one suppression level for a particular location or whether, for one location, suppression depends on the actual saliency of the distractor appearing at that location. In three experiments, we demonstrate a saliency-specific mechanism of distractor suppression, which can be flexibly modulated by the overall probability of encountering distractors of different saliency levels to optimize behavior in a specific environment. The results also suggest that this mechanism has dimension-independent aspects, given that the saliency-specific suppression pattern is unaffected when saliency signals of distractors are generated by different dimensions. It is argued that suppression is saliency-dependent, implying that suppression is modulated on a trial-by-trial basis contingent on the saliency of the actual distractor presented.