Get Set or Get Distracted? Disentangling Content-Priming and Attention-Catching Effects of Background Lure Stimuli on Identifying Targets in Two Simultaneously Presented Series


  • Verleger Rolf
  • Śmigasiewicz Kamila
  • Michael Lars
  • Heikaus Laura
  • Niedeggen Michael


  • Rsvp
  • Lure stimuli
  • Priming
  • ERPs
  • N2pc

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In order to study the changing relevance of stimulus features in time and space, we used a task with rapid serial presentation of two stimulus streams where two targets (“T1” and “T2”) had to be distinguished from background stimuli and where the difficult T2 distinction was impeded by background stimuli presented before T1 that resemble T2 (“lures”). Such lures might actually have dual characteristics: Their capturing attention might interfere with target identification, whereas their similarity to T2 might result in positive priming. To test this idea here, T2 was a blue digit among black letters, and lures resembled T2 either by alphanumeric category (black digits) or by salience (blue letters). Same-category lures were expected to prime T2 identification whereas salient lures would impede T2 identification. Results confirmed these predictions, yet the precise pattern of results did not fit our conceptual framework. To account for this pattern, we speculate that lures serve to confuse participants about the order of events, and the major factor distinguishing color lures and digit lures is their confusability with T2. Mechanisms of effects were additionally explored by measuring event-related EEG potentials. Consistent with the assumption that they attract more attention, color lures evoked larger N2pc than digit lures and affected the ensuing T1-evoked N2pc. T2-evoked N2pc was indistinguishably reduced by all kinds of preceding lures, though. Lure-evoked mesio-frontal negativity increased from first to third lures both with digit and color lures and, thereby, might have reflected expectancy for T1.

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