Statistical regularities induce spatial as well as feature-specific suppression


We are constantly extracting regularities from the visual environment to optimize attentional orienting. Here we examine the phenomenon that recurrent presentation of distractors in a specific location leads to its attentional suppression. Specifically, we address the question whether suppression is specific to the spatial regularities of distractors or also extends to visual features bearing statistical regularities. To that end, we used a visual search task with two high-probability locations, each showing one of two distractor types more often than the other. At these high-probability locations, target processing was impaired and attentional capture by either distractor was reduced, consistent with feature-unspecific spatial suppression. However, suppression was more facilitated when the distractor feature was presented at the high-probability location that matched its features, suggesting feature-specific suppression. Interestingly, feature-unspecific spatial suppression only spread between locations when distractors varied within a feature dimension (e.g., red and green) but not when they varied across feature dimensions (e.g., red and square). Our findings thus demonstrate a joint influence of implicitly learned spatial and feature regularities on attention and reveal how the visual system can benefit from complex statistical regularities.

Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 45(10), 1291-1303 (* shared first authorship)