The present study used visual prior entry to determine which of two stimuli received attention first. Observers were asked to judge whether two test stimuli across a range of stimulus onset asynchronies (SOAs) were synchronized or not (simultaneity judgment task; SJ), or to report the temporal order of the two test stimuli (temporal order judgment task; TOJ). Before the presentation of the two test stimuli, a single noninformative stimulus that matched the color of one of the test stimuli was presented in the center of the display. The results showed that, in both the TOJ and SJ tasks, the noninformative stimulus caused a shift in the psychometric function such that the test stimulus that had the same color as the preceding noninformative stimulus was seen earlier in time than the test stimulus that had a color that did not match. In other words, the mere processing of the color of a noninformative stimulus, rendered the stimulus having that same color more salient, an effect that we attributed to priming. Because priming made one of the stimuli more salient, it received attention first and accelerated its processing, causing prior entry into awareness. Importantly, when the noninformative stimulus was a color word, no such priming effect was observed. We conclude that a primed test stimulus has the ability to capture attention in an automatic way.
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