Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

Top-down control over stimulus-driven attentional capture, as postulated by the contingent capture hypothesis, has been a topic of lively scientific debate for a number of years now. According to the latter hypothesis, a stimulus has to match the feature of a top-down established control set in order to be selected automatically. Today, research on the topic of contingent capture has focused mostly on the manipulation of only a single feature separating the target from the distractors (the selection feature). The research presented here examined the compilation of top-down attentional control sets having multiple selection features. We report three experiments in which the feature overlap between the distractor and the top-down sets was manipulated on different perceptual features (e.g., colour, orientation and location). Distractors could match three, two or one of the features of the top-down sets. In line with our hypotheses, the strength of the distractor interference effects decreased linearly as the feature overlap between the distractor and the participants' top-down sets decreased. These results therefore suggest a decline in the efficiency with which distractors involuntarily capture attention as the target-similarity decreases. The data support the idea of multi-feature attentional control sets and are discussed in light of prominent contemporary theories of visual attention.

Original publication




Journal article


Atten Percept Psychophys

Publication Date



Attention, Attentional capture, Contingent capture, Multiple selection features, Top-down control, Vision