Attentional and oculomotor capture by onset, luminance and color singletons

Vision Res. 2000;40(10-12):1443-58. doi: 10.1016/s0042-6989(00)00030-4.


In three experiments we investigated whether attentional and oculomotor capture occur only when object-defining abrupt onsets are used as distractors in a visual search task, or whether other salient stimuli also capture attention and the eyes even when they do not constitute new objects. The results showed that abrupt onsets (new objects) are especially effective in capturing attention and the eyes, but that luminance increments that do not accompany the appearance of new objects capture attention as well. Color singletons do not capture attention unless subjects have experienced the color singleton as a search target in a previous experimental session. Both abrupt onsets and luminance increments elicit reflexive, involuntary saccades whereas transient color changes do not. Implications for theories of attentional capture are discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Color Perception / physiology
  • Female
  • Fixation, Ocular / physiology
  • Humans
  • Lighting
  • Male
  • Photic Stimulation / methods
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Saccades / physiology*
  • Visual Perception / physiology*