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Publication Detail
Dilution: atheoretical burden or just load? A reply to Tsal and Benoni (2010).
  • Publication Type:
    Journal article
  • Publication Sub Type:
    Journal Article
  • Authors:
    Lavie N, Torralbo A
  • Publication date:
  • Pagination:
    1657, 1664
  • Journal:
    J Exp Psychol Hum Percept Perform
  • Volume:
  • Issue:
  • Status:
  • Country:
    United States
  • PII:
  • Language:
  • Keywords:
    Adolescent, Adult, Attention, Color Perception, Decision Making, Discrimination, Psychological, Female, Field Dependence-Independence, Generalization, Psychological, Humans, Male, Memory, Short-Term, Orientation, Pattern Recognition, Visual, Psychological Theory, Reaction Time, Young Adult
Load theory of attention proposes that distractor processing is reduced in tasks with high perceptual load that exhaust attentional capacity within task-relevant processing. In contrast, tasks of low perceptual load leave spare capacity that spills over, resulting in the perception of task-irrelevant, potentially distracting stimuli. Tsal and Benoni (2010) find that distractor response competition effects can be reduced under conditions with a high search set size but low perceptual load (due to a singleton color target). They claim that the usual effect of search set size on distractor processing is not due to attentional load but instead attribute this to lower level visual interference. Here, we propose an account for their findings within load theory. We argue that in tasks of low perceptual load but high set size, an irrelevant distractor competes with the search nontargets for remaining capacity. Thus, distractor processing is reduced under conditions in which the search nontargets receive the spillover of capacity instead of the irrelevant distractor. We report a new experiment testing this prediction. Our new results demonstrate that, when peripheral distractor processing is reduced, it is the search nontargets nearest to the target that are perceived instead. Our findings provide new evidence for the spare capacity spillover hypothesis made by load theory and rule out accounts in terms of lower level visual interference (or mere "dilution") for cases of reduced distractor processing under low load in displays of high set size. We also discuss additional evidence that discounts the viability of Tsal and Benoni's dilution account as an alternative to perceptual load.
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