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Interactions Between Space-Based and Feature-Based Attention


Although early research suggested that attention to nonspatial features (i.e., red) was confined to stimuli appearing at an attended spatial location, more recent research has emphasized the global nature of feature-based attention. For example, a distractor sharing a target feature may capture attention even if it occurs at a task-irrelevant location. Such findings have been used to argue that feature-based attention operates independently of spatial attention. However, feature-based attention may nonetheless interact with spatial attention, yielding larger feature-based effects at attended locations than at unattended locations. The present study tested this possibility. In 2 experiments, participants viewed a rapid serial visual presentation (RSVP) stream and identified a target letter defined by its color. Target-colored distractors were presented at various task-irrelevant locations during the RSVP stream. We found that feature-driven attentional capture effects were largest when the target-colored distractor was closer to the attended location. These results demonstrate that spatial attention modulates the strength of feature-based attention capture, calling into question the prior evidence that feature-based attention operates in a global manner that is independent of spatial attention.

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