Surprise! An unexpected color singleton does not capture attention in visual search

Bradley S. Gibson, Yuhong Jiang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

82 Scopus citations


The existence of a pure form of stimulus-driven attentional control has been aligned exclusively with the existence of attentional capture. Unfortunately, there has been little evidence provided in support of attentional capture. The present study investigated whether the repeated failure to observe attentional capture might be due to the way in which attentional capture has been measured. A new visual search procedure was used to investigate whether attention would be captured by an initial and unexpected encounter with a color singleton. Despite this important change in procedure, the color singleton still did not capture attention. Further evidence showed that visual search for the color singleton could be highly efficient, but only after its relevance became established, and that the failure to observe capture in the present experiment was not due to other potentially detrimental effects of surprise. The present results suggest that new conceptions of stimulus-driven attentional control are required.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)176-182
Number of pages7
JournalPsychological Science
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 1998


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