project: Spatial suppression due to statistical regularities is driven by distractor suppression not by target activation

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  1. Benchi Wang

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Description: Where and what we attend to is not only determined by what we are currently looking for but also by what we have encountered in the past. Recent studies suggest that biasing the probability by which distractors appear at locations in visual space may lead to attentional suppression of high probability distractor locations which effectively reduces capture by a distractor but also impairs target selection at this location. However, in many of these studies introducing a high probability distractor location was tantamount to increasing the probability of the target appearing in any of the other locations (i.e. the low probability distractor locations). Here, we investigate an alternative interpretation of previous findings according to which attentional selection at high probability distractor locations is not suppressed. Instead, selection at low probability distractor locations is facilitated. In two visual search tasks, we found no evidence for this hypothesis: neither when there was only a bias in target presentation but no bias in distractor presentation (Experiment 1), nor when there was only a bias in distractor presentation but no bias in target presentation (Experiment 2). We conclude that recurrent presentation of a distractor in a specific location leads to attentional suppression of that location through a mechanism that is unaffected by any regularities regarding the target location.

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