Previously seen and expected stimuli elicit surprise in the context of visual search

Retell, James D., Becker, Stefanie I. and Remington, Roger W. (2016) Previously seen and expected stimuli elicit surprise in the context of visual search. Attention, Perception, and Psychophysics, 78 3: 774-788. doi:10.3758/s13414-015-1052-9

Author Retell, James D.
Becker, Stefanie I.
Remington, Roger W.
Title Previously seen and expected stimuli elicit surprise in the context of visual search
Journal name Attention, Perception, and Psychophysics   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 1943-393X
Publication date 2016-04-01
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.3758/s13414-015-1052-9
Open Access Status Not Open Access
Volume 78
Issue 3
Start page 774
End page 788
Total pages 15
Place of publication New York, United States
Publisher Springer
Language eng
Subject 1203 Language and Linguistics
3205 Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
3310 Linguistics and Language
2809 Sensory Systems
Abstract In the context of visual search, surprise is the phenomenon by which a previously unseen and unexpected stimulus exogenously attracts spatial attention. Capture by such a stimulus occurs, by definition, independent of task goals and is thought to be dependent on the extent to which the stimulus deviates from expectations. However, the relative contributions of prior-exposure and explicit knowledge of an unexpected event to the surprise response have not yet been systematically investigated. Here observers searched for a specific color while ignoring irrelevant cues of different colors presented prior to the target display. After a brief familiarization period, we presented an irrelevant motion cue to elicit surprise. Across conditions we varied prior exposure to the motion stimulus – seen versus unseen – and top-down expectations of occurrence – expected versus unexpected – to assess the extent to which each of these factors contributes to surprise. We found no attenuation of the surprise response when observers were pre-exposed to the motion cue and or had explicit knowledge of its occurrence. Our results show that it is neither sufficient nor necessary that a stimulus be new and unannounced to elicit surprise and suggest that the expectations that determine the surprise response are highly context specific.
Keyword Attentional capture
Visual search
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Provisional Code
Institutional Status UQ

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Article (original research)
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School of Psychology Publications
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