ISSN 0439-755X
CN 11-1911/B

Acta Psychologica Sinica ›› 2018, Vol. 50 ›› Issue (10): 1071-1082.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1041.2018.01071

• Reports of Empirical Studies •     Next Articles

Attentional capture is contingent on attentional control setting for semantic meaning: Evidence from modified spatial cueing paradigm

Hui-Yuan WANG1,Jie SUI2,3(),Ming ZHANG4()   

  1. 1 Department of Psychology, Changchun Normal University, Changchun 130032, China
    2 Department of Psychology, Tsinghua University, Beijing 100084, China
    3 Department of Psychology, University of Bath, Bath, BA2 7AY, UK
    4 Department of Psychology, Soochow University, Suzhou 215123, China
  • Received:2017-10-12 Published:2018-10-25 Online:2018-08-23


Abstract It has been well documented that attentional capture is contingent on the features of attentional control settings; however, whether and how the semantic contingency between cue and target stimuli modulates spatial attention is poorly understood. Here, we tested this question with strict experiment designs by focusing on pure contingent attentional capture for the semantic meaning of feature attributes or semantic concept cues, and we then examined the nature of attentional control in human visual spatial performance.

A modified spatial cuing paradigm was employed in the current study. In Experiment 1, cues presented in red or green and targets were white Chinese characters “红” (meaning red) or “绿” (meaning green). We had participants discriminate the location of the gap of the target square in different cue-target blocks. Experiments 2 and 3 were identical to Experiment 1, except that in Experiment 2, cue property and target character were randomized, and the task was to discriminate the target as “红” or “绿”; Experiment 3 swapped the cue and target stimuli, where cues were Chinese characters in white and targets were presented in red or green.

The results showed that semantically congruent color cues exclusively captured attention when participants searched for a specific semantic meaning in Experiment 1. In contrast, cuing effects were observed in Experiment 2 in the two-color cue conditions when participants discriminated two Chinese characters, and the effects were independent of the semantic congruency of cue and target. Experiment 3 replicated the results in Experiment 1; cues with semantically congruent Chinese characters captured attention only when participants were required to search for a specific color.

It is concluded that (1) the effects of semantic attentional capture were modulated by attentional control setting, consistent with a contingent attentional orienting hypothesis; (2) the perceptional representation of stimuli activated by semantic concept modulated the processing of stimuli on the location of spatial attention, but the magnitude of the effect decreased; (3) the congruent semantic representation was activated by attentional control setting for perceptional feature and subsequently modulated the allocation of attention; and (4) activation of semantic concept and perceptional representation may be bidirectional and resemble each other in traits of attention shift guidance.

Key words: semantic contingency, attentional capture, attentional control setting, modified spatial cuing paradigm, semantic activation

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