Auditory and Visual Capture During Focused Visual Attention

Thomas Koelewijn*, Adelbert Bronkhorst, Jan Theeuwes

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


It is well known that auditory and visual onsets presented at a particular location can capture a person's visual attention. However, the question of whether such attentional capture disappears when attention is focused endogenously beforehand has not yet been answered. Moreover, previous studies have not differentiated between capture by onsets presented at a nontarget (invalid) location and possible performance benefits occurring when the target location is (validly) cued. In this study, the authors modulated the degree of attentional focus by presenting endogenous cues with varying reliability and by displaying placeholders indicating the precise areas where the target stimuli could occur. By using not only valid and invalid exogenous cues but also neutral cues that provide temporal but no spatial information, they found performance benefits as well as costs when attention is not strongly focused. The benefits disappear when the attentional focus is increased. These results indicate that there is bottom-up capture of visual attention by irrelevant auditory and visual stimuli that cannot be suppressed by top-down attentional control.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1303-1315
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2009

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