ISSN 0439-755X
CN 11-1911/B

Acta Psychologica Sinica ›› 2016, Vol. 48 ›› Issue (7): 783-793.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1041.2016.00783

Previous Articles     Next Articles

The effect of cue-target relevance and search strategies on attentional capture: Evidence from meaning cues

WANG Huiyuan1; SUI Jie2; ZHANG Ming3   

  1. (1 Department of Psychology, Changchun Normal University, Changchun 130032, China) (2 Department of Psychology, Tsinghua University, Beijing 100084, China) (3 Department of Psychology, Soochow University, Suzhou 215123, China)
  • Received:2015-04-22 Published:2016-07-25 Online:2016-07-25
  • Contact: SUI Jie, E-mail:; ZHANG Ming, E-mail:


It is well known that involuntary shifting of spatial visual attention was modulated by perceptional relevance and meaningful concept relevance among stimuli as well as strategies employed for search performing, and a very recent study further showed the interactions among these factors (Wang, Zhang, & Sui, 2014). However, there were several pitfalls in the study, (1) cue-related stimuli were relatively not abstract with less social meanings, (2) the experiment did not systematically measure cue-target relations, (3) the absolute response times were impaired by the attributes of the Chinese character targets. These issues were addressed in the present study. A modified spatial cueing paradigm was employed in the current study. A trial began with a fixation screen presented for 500 ms, followed by an uninformative red or white Chinese character cue which appeared for 100 ms. Then a fixation screen was showed for 100 ms, followed by a target screen with four squares for 500 ms, either four color squares or one red and three white squares. Participants had to make a judgment for the gap orientation of the red target square while ignoring other distractors. Targets were randomly presented at the one of four locations, either cued or non-cued (valid vs. invalided trials). The effect of attentional capture referred to slower responses to targets in the invalid than valid trials. In the current study, there were four experimental conditions according to cue-target combinations for singleton detection mode task and feature search mode task. The order of experimental conditions was counterbalanced across participants. The results showed that there was no the capture effect in the meaningful cues only when feature search mode was induced by itself, but, the capture effect was observed when singleton detection mode was used, and when the semantic relevance between the cue and the target was established. The capture effects were also significant when there was the perceptional relevance between the cue and target. In addition, the effect from perception relevance was greater than that from semantic relevance and singleton detection mode. In contrast, the capture effects induced by singleton detection mode and by semantic relevance were eliminated when perceptional relevance occurred. It was concluded that (1) attentional capture from meaningful cues was consistent with contingent attentional orienting hypothesis, the cues may capture attention only based on the current attentional control setting, (2) perceptional relevance was dominant on modulating the involuntary attentional orienting, while semantic relevance affected the involuntary attentional orienting but the capture effect was overlapped when other factors operated, (3) although the search strategies reduced the response latencies greatly, the strategy based on singleton detection mode modulated the involuntary attentional orienting, nevertheless the modulating capacity was very limited.

Key words: cue-target relevance, search strategies, attentional capture, meaningful cues, attentional control setting