Previous research has shown that a task-irrelevant sudden onset of an object will capture an observer's visual attention or draw it to that object (e.g., Yantis & Jonides, 1984). However, further research has demonstrated the apparent inability of an object with a task-irrelevant but unique color or luminance to capture attention (Jonides & Yantis, 1988). In the experiments reported here, we reexplore the question of whether task-irrelevant properties other than sudden onset may capture attention. Our results suggest that uniquely colored or luminous objects, as well as salient though irrelevant boundaries, do not appear to capture attention. However, these irrelevant features do appear to serve as landmarks for a top-down search strategy which becomes increasingly likely with larger display set sizes. These findings are described in terms of stimulus-driven and goal-directed aspects of attentional control.
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