Top-down and bottom-up attentional control: On the nature of interference from a salient distractor

Min Shik Kim, Kyle R. Cave

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

157 Citations (Scopus)


In two experiments using spatial probes, we measured the temporal and spatial interactions between top-down control of attention and bottom-up interference from a salient distractor in visual search. The subjects searched for a square among circles, ignoring color. Probe response times showed that a color singleton distractor could draw attention to its location in the early stage of visual processing (before a 100-msec stimulus onset asynchrony [SOA]), but only when the color singleton distractor was located far from the target. Apparently the bottom-up activation of the singleton distractor's location is affected early on by local interactions with nearby stimulus locations. Moreover, probe results showed that a singleton distractor did not receive attention after extended practice. These results suggest that top-down control of attention is possible at an early stage of visual processing. In the long-SOA condition (150-msec SOA), spatial attention selected the target location over distractor locations, and this tendency occurred with or without extended practice.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1009-1023
Number of pages15
JournalPerception and Psychophysics
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1999 Aug

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Sensory Systems
  • Psychology(all)


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