The Adaptive Character of the Attentional System: Statistical Sensitivity in a Target Localization Task

Lynne M. Reder, Keith Weber, Jen Shang, Polina M. Vanyukov

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations

Abstract

A localization task required participants to indicate which of 4 locations contained a briefly displayed target. Most displays also contained a distractor that was not equally probable in these locations, affecting performance dramatically. Responses were faster when a display had no distractor and almost as fast when the distractor was in its frequent location. Conversely, responses were slower when targets appeared in frequent-distractor locations, even though targets were equally likely in each location. Negative-priming effects were reliably smaller when targets followed distractors in the frequent-distractor location compared to the rare-distractor location, challenging the episodic-retrieval account. Experiment 2 added a 5th location that rarely displayed distractors and never targets, yet responses slowed most when distractors appeared there. The results confirmed that the attentional system is sensitive to first- and higher-order statistical patterns and can make short- and long-term adjustments in preferences based on prior history of inspecting unsuccessful locations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)631-649
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance
Volume29
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 2003

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Behavioral Neuroscience

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