Can salient stimuli, such as abrupt onsets, capture attention? Some researchers consistently find that they do, regardless of the observers current goals, whereas others consistently find the opposite. The present research begins with the observation that different theoretical camps consistently rely on different types of visual search: letter vs. color. In the present pre-cuing experiments, I directly compared these two approaches using identical stimulus displays, changing only the search dimension. The results were striking: letter search produced large cue validity effects, whereas color search produced negligible effects. Later experiments demonstrated a key role of search difficulty. I tested several candidate theoretical explanations for this phenomenon. The results support a nonstrategic cost of capture account called the search time model. This dissertation helps to resolve a twenty-year debate about attention capture and has profound implications for developing a comprehensive model of attention capture.
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Gaspelin, Nicholas. "Can Irrelevant Onsets Capture Attention? Searching for a Unified Model of Attention Capture." (2014). http://digitalrepository.unm.edu/psy_etds/47