Abstract：That attentional capture on attentional control settings for features was proved in a great amount of literature. However, whether and how semantic congruency between stimuli modulates spatial attention is poorly undertood. A recent study showed that participants could set semantics in attentional capture by congruent color cues (Wang, Zhang, & Sui, 2014; Goodhew, Kendall, Ferber, & Pratt, 2014). Here, we attempted to provide stricter experiment designs to verify pure contingent attentional capture for semantic meaning from feature attribute or semantic concept cues respectively, and investigate the nature of attentional control in human visual spatial performance further.
A modified spatial cuing paradigm was employed in the current study. In Experiment 1, cues were red or green and targets were white Chinese character “红”(meaning red) or “绿” (meaning green). We had participants to discriminate the gap location of target square in different cue-target blocks. Experiment 2 was identical to Experiment 1 except that cue property and target character were randomized and the task was to discriminate the target “红”or “绿”. In Experiment 3, cues were white Chinese characters and targets were red or green. The participants remained to discriminate the gap location of target color square in different cue-target blocks.
The results showed that semantic congruent color cues exclusively captured attention when participants were required to search for a specific semantic meaning (Experiment 1), while cuing effects were found in the two color cue conditions when participants were required to discriminate for two Chinese characters, and the effect was independent of the semantic congruency of cue and target (Experiment 2). Likewise, the cues with semantic congruent Chinese character captured attention only when participants were required to search for a specific color in Experiment 3. There were comparable cuing effects across the three experiments.
It is concluded that (1) semantic attentional capture is consistent with contingent attentional orienting hypothesis, and the capture effects are modulated by current attentional control setting, (2) perceptional representation activated by semantic concept modulates the location of spatial attention as itself, but the magnitude of the effect is declined, (3) the congruent semantic concept can be activated by attentional control setting for perceptional feature, and subsequently modulates the allocation of attention, (4) activation of semantic concept by perceptional representation may be bidirectional, and resembles each other in traits of attention shift guidance.