Attentional capture in serial audiovisual search tasks.
Dalton P., Spence C.
The phenomenon of attentional capture has typically been studied in spatial search tasks. Dalton and Lavie recently demonstrated that auditory attention can also be captured by a singleton item in a rapidly presented tone sequence. In the experiments reported here, we investigated whether these findings extend cross-modally to sequential search tasks using audiovisual stimuli. Participants searched a stream of centrally presented audiovisual stimuli for targets defined on a particular dimension (e.g., duration) in a particular modality. Task performance was compared in the presence versus absence of a unique singleton distractor. Irrelevant auditory singletons captured attention during visual search tasks, leading to interference when they coincided with distractors but to facilitation when they coincided with targets. These results demonstrate attentional capture by auditory singletons during nonspatial visual search.