Size matters: large objects capture attention in visual search

PLoS One. 2010 Dec 23;5(12):e15293. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0015293.


Can objects or events ever capture one's attention in a purely stimulus-driven manner? A recent review of the literature set out the criteria required to find stimulus-driven attentional capture independent of goal-directed influences, and concluded that no published study has satisfied that criteria. Here visual search experiments assessed whether an irrelevantly large object can capture attention. Capture of attention by this static visual feature was found. The results suggest that a large object can indeed capture attention in a stimulus-driven manner and independent of displaywide features of the task that might encourage a goal-directed bias for large items. It is concluded that these results are either consistent with the stimulus-driven criteria published previously or alternatively consistent with a flexible, goal-directed mechanism of saliency detection.

MeSH terms

  • Attention
  • Discrimination, Psychological
  • Eye Movements
  • Humans
  • Reaction Time
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Time Factors
  • Vision, Ocular*
  • Visual Perception*