The attentional effects of single cues and color singletons on visual sensitivity

Alex L. White, Rasmus Lunau, Marisa Carrasco

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Sudden changes in the visual periphery can automatically draw attention to their locations. For example, the brief flash of a single object (a "cue") rapidly enhances contrast sensitivity for subsequent stimuli in its vicinity. Feature singletons (e.g., a red circle among green circles) can also capture attention in a variety of tasks. Here, we evaluate whether a peripheral cue that enhances contrast sensitivity when it appears alone has a similar effect when it appears as a color singleton, with the same stimuli and task. In four experiments we asked observers to report the orientation of a target Gabor stimulus, which was preceded by an uninformative cue array consisting either of a single disk or of 16 disks containing a color or luminance singleton. Accuracy was higher and contrast thresholds lower when the single cue appeared at or near the target's location, compared with farther away. The color singleton also modulated performance but to a lesser degree and only when it appeared exactly at the target's location. Thus, this is the first study to demonstrate that cueing by color singletons, like single cues, can enhance sensory signals at an early stage of processing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)639-652
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2014


  • Attention
  • Attentional capture
  • Color singletons
  • Contrast sensitivity
  • Feature contrast
  • Single cues
  • Vision

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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