Selective target processing: perceptual load or distractor salience?
Eltiti S., Wallace D., Fox E.
Perceptual load theory (Lavie, 1995) states that participants cannot engage in focused attention when shown displays containing a low perceptual load, because attentional resources are not exhausted, whereas in high-load displays attention is always focused, because attentional resources are exhausted. An alternative "salience" hypothesis holds that the salience of distractors and not perceptual load per se determines selective attention. Three experiments were conducted to investigate the influence that target and distractor onsets and offsets have on selective processing in a standard interference task. Perceptual load theory predicts that, regardless of target or distractor presentation (onset or offset), interference from ignored distractors should occur in low-load displays only. In contrast, the salience hypothesis predicts that interference should occur when the distractor appears as an onset and would occur for distractor offsets only when the target was also an offset. Interference may even occur in highload displays if the distractor is more salient. The results supported the salience hypothesis.