Attention capture by novel stimuli

J Exp Psychol Gen. 1990 Dec;119(4):397-411. doi: 10.1037//0096-3445.119.4.397.


In several experiments, observers were given glimpses of 4-word arrays. Accuracy of word localization was tested after each array. Some words, called familiar, appeared many times across the series of arrays; others, called novel, appeared only once. The ratio of novel to familiar words in an array ranged from 0:4 to 4:0. When familiar and novel words were not intermixed (in 0:4 and 4:0 arrays), localization accuracy was higher for familiar words. However, when they were intermixed, especially in 1:3 arrays, accuracy tended to be higher for the novel words. This novel popout effect was the outcome of the suppressed localizability of the familiar words (relative to the 0:4 baseline) and the enhanced localizability of the novel words (relative to the 4:0 baseline). Novel popout may reflect an automatic orientation of attention away from more fluently unfolding regions of the perceptual field (familiar objects) and toward less fluently unfolding regions (novel objects).

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Arousal*
  • Attention*
  • Discrimination Learning
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Orientation
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual*
  • Reading*