It's under control: Top-down search strategies can override attentional capture

Andrew B. Leber, Howard E. Egeth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

219 Scopus citations


Bacon and Egeth (1994) proposed that observed instances of attentional capture by feature singletons (e.g., color) were the result of a salience-based strategy adopted by subjects (singleton detection mode) and, thus, were not automatic. They showed that subjects could override capture by adopting strategies based on searching for specific target features (feature search mode). However, Theeuwes (2004) has recently argued that Bacon and Egeth's results arose from experimental confounds. He elaborated a model in which attentional capture must be expected when salient distractors fall within a spatial window of attention. According to Theeuwes's (2004) model, there exist two essential criteria for examining stimulus-driven capture. First, search latencies cannot increase with display size, since the search must be parallel; second, the salience of the irrelevant distractor must not be compromised by characteristics of the search display. Contrary to the predictions of Theeuwes's (2004) model, we provide evidence that involuntary capture can be overridden when both of these criteria are met. Our results are consistent with Bacon and Egeth's proposal.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)132-138
Number of pages7
JournalPsychonomic Bulletin and Review
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2006

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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