Failure of the extended contingent attentional capture account in multimodal settings

Rob H.J. van der Lubbe, Jurjen van der Helden

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Sudden changes in our environment like sound bursts or light flashes are thought to automatically attract our attention thereby affecting responses to subsequent targets, although an alternative view (the contingent attentional capture account) holds that stimuli only capture our attention when they match target features. In the current study, we examined whether an extended version of the latter view can explain exogenous cuing effects on speed and accuracy of performance to targets (uncued-cued) in multimodal settings, in which auditory and visual stimuli co-occur. To this end, we determined whether observed effects of visual and auditory cues, which were always intermixed, depend on top-down settings in “pure” blocks, in which only one target modality occurred, as compared to “mixed” blocks, in which targets were either visual or auditory. Results revealed that unimodal and crossmodal cuing effects depend on top-down settings. However, our findingswerenot in accordance with predictions derived from the extended contingent attentional capture account. Specifically, visualcues showed comparable effects for visual targets in pure and mixed blocks, but also a comparable effect for auditory targets in pure blocks, and most surprisingly, an opposite effect in mixed blocks. The latter result suggests that visual stimuli may distract attention from the auditory modality in case when the modality of the forthcoming target is unknown. The results additionally revealed that the Simon effect, the influence of correspondence or not between stimulus and response side, is modulated by exogenous cues in unimodal settings, but not in crossmodal settings. These findingsaccord with the view that attention plays an important role for the Simon effect, and additionally questions the directness of links between maps of visual and auditory space.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)255-267
JournalAdvances in cognitive psychology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2006


  • Representational change with spatial attention
  • Mixed-blocked
  • Multimodal
  • IR-58744
  • Insight
  • Heuristics
  • METIS-234983


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