Dissociations of Personally Significant and Task-Relevant Distractors Inside and Outside the Focus of Attention: A Combined Behavioral and Psychophysiological Study

Nurit Gronau*, Asher Cohen, Gershon Ben-Shakhar

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

100 Scopus citations

Abstract

Studies of attentional capture by personally significant stimuli have reached inconsistent results, possibly because of improper control of the participants' attention. In the present study, the authors controlled visual attention by using a Stroop-like task. Participants responded to a central color and ignored a word presented either centrally (i.e., at the focus of attention) or peripherally (i.e., outside the focus of attention). Central words led to slower reaction times and larger orienting responses for significant items than for neutral items. These effects largely disappeared when the words appeared in a peripheral location. The peripheral words interfered with performance when they were relevant to task demands. These results indicate that there is a fundamental difference between task-relevant words and personally significant words: The former capture attention even when presented peripherally, whereas the latter do not.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)512-529
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: General
Volume132
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 2003

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