More capture, more suppression: Distractor suppression due to statistical regularities is determined by the magnitude of attentional capture


Salient yet irrelevant objects often interfere with daily tasks by capturing attention against our best interests and intentions. Recent research has shown that through implicit learning, distraction by a salient object can be reduced by suppressing the location where this distractor is likely to appear. Here, we investigated whether suppression of such high-probability distractor locations is an all-or-none phenomenon or specifically tuned to the degree of interference caused by the distractor. In two experiments, we varied the salience of two task-irrelevant singleton distractors each of which was more likely to appear in one specific location in the visual field. We show that the magnitude of interference by a distractor determines the magnitude of suppression for its high-probability location: The more salient a distractor, the more it becomes suppressed when appearing in its high-probability location. We conclude that distractor suppression emerges as a consequence of the spatial regularities regarding the location of a distractor as well as its potency to interfere with attentional selection.

Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 27(1), 86-95