Top-down knowledge surpasses selection history in influencing attentional guidance

Markus Grüner, Florian Goller, Ulrich Ansorge

Veröffentlichungen: Beitrag in FachzeitschriftArtikelPeer Reviewed


Visual attention is influenced by the characteristics of the stimuli (bottom-up), their task relevance (top-down), and prior experience (e.g., selection history and learning). However, it is largely unclear how learning and selection history interact with top-down attentional guidance. We combined trial-and-error learning with a spatial cueing protocol to test whether previously learned target-defining features continued to capture attention if participants were instructed to search for a new target feature (Experiment 1) or had to learn a new target feature (Experiment 2). It turned out that the previously learned feature quickly stopped capturing attention when the target feature changed (Experiment 1; even before participants learned the new target-defining feature, in Experiment 2). Finally, in Experiment 3, in which participants learned to search for targets defined by two redundant features (color and orientation), we found possible reasons for the dominance of the instructed feature over learning. Participants reported using only the target color for their search. Consequently, only cues with a target color captured attention. The unused target orientation only captured attention in participants aware of both target-defining features (13 out of 23) and only if the orientation was presented in the target color. We conclude that knowledge of target-defining features and their use as search criterion is critical for attentional guidance, while previously learned target features either influence attentional guidance only contingent on such deliberately selected top-down based attentional control settings or may influence visual search but not attentional guidance.

Seiten (von - bis)985-1011
FachzeitschriftAttention, Perception, and Psychophysics
PublikationsstatusVeröffentlicht - Mai 2023

ÖFOS 2012

  • 501011 Kognitionspsychologie