Is the Suppression of Singleton Color Distractors Context Dependent?

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The Ohio State University

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The mechanism of distractor suppression enables individuals to ignore salient, task-irrelevant stimuli. Suppression appears to accumulate via statistical learning, in which singleton distractors appear with greater probability in specific color or at specific locations. Recently, Allon & Leber (2019) presented evidence that spatially learned suppression can be implemented in a context-dependent fashion. Here we question whether context-dependent suppression extends to nonspatial features (specifically, color). To investigate this, we modified the learned suppression paradigm of Wang and Theeuwes (2018), along with the context dependency manipulation of Allon and Leber. Our manipulation paired background scenes (city and forest) with highly probable distractor colors (red and green), such that a specific background scene predicted the salient, irrelevant distractor color on each trial (when present), with 80% validity. Trials began with a background scene and were followed by search displays containing six items, including one shape target; additionally, color singletons were presented on 75% of trials at a nontarget location. We compared three critical conditions: current high-probable distractor (salient distractor is associated with the present background scene category), other distractor (salient distractor is associated with the other background scene category), and distractor absent. Results showed that both the current high-probable and other distractors interfered in equivalent amounts, thus failing to produce the same context-dependent suppression effect previously observed in the spatial domain. These results may reveal an important distinction between location-based and feature-based mechanisms of attentional suppression.



Distractor Suppression