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Durham University

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Publication details for Dr Anna Grubert

Grubert, A. & Eimer, M. (2016). All set, indeed! N2pc components reveal simultaneous attentional control settings for multiple target colors. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance 42(8): 1215-1230.

Author(s) from Durham


To study whether top-down attentional control processes can be set simultaneously for different visual features, we employed a spatial cueing procedure to measure behavioral and electrophysiological markers of task-set contingent attentional capture during search for targets defined by 1 or 2 possible colors (one-color and two-color tasks). Search arrays were preceded by spatially nonpredictive color singleton cues. Behavioral spatial cueing effects indicative of attentional capture were elicited only by target-matching but not by distractor-color cues. However, when search displays contained 1 target-color and 1 distractor-color object among gray nontargets, N2pc components were triggered not only by target-color but also by distractor-color cues both in the one-color and two-color task, demonstrating that task-set nonmatching items attracted attention. When search displays contained 6 items in 6 different colors, so that participants had to adopt a fully feature-specific task set, the N2pc to distractor-color cues was eliminated in both tasks, indicating that nonmatching items were now successfully excluded from attentional processing. These results demonstrate that when observers adopt a feature-specific search mode, attentional task sets can be configured flexibly for multiple features within the same dimension, resulting in the rapid allocation of attention to task-set matching objects only.