The time course of attentional and oculomotor capture reveals a common cause

Amelia R. Hunt, Adrian von Mühlenen, Alan Kingstone

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

57 Citations (Scopus)


Eye movements are often misdirected toward a distractor when it appears abruptly, an effect known as oculomotor capture. Fundamental differences between eye movements and attention have led to questions about the relationship of oculomotor capture to the more general effect of sudden onsets on performance, known as attentional capture. This study explores that issue by examining the time course of eye movements and manual localization responses to targets in the presence of sudden-onset distractors. The results demonstrate that for both response types, the proportion of trials on which responses are erroneously directed to sudden onsets reflects the quality of information about the visual display at a given point in time. Oculomotor capture appears to be a specific instance of a more general attentional capture effect. Differences and similarities between the two types of capture can be explained by the critical idea that the quality of information about a visual display changes over time and that different response systems tend to access this information at different moments in time.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)271–284
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2007


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