Time to stop calling it attentional “capture” and embrace a mechanistic understanding of attentional priority
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In the target article, Luck et al. (2020) argue for progress that has been made in the debate surrounding the factors that determine whether a stimulus captures attention, offering points of agreement in addition to highlighting specific outstanding issues that could contribute to further resolution. This commentary questions the most fundamental assumption on which the debate rests: namely that the computation of attentional priority can culminate in a quantal event in which attention can be said to have been captured. The notion of attention-as-capturable leads to a forced dichotomy with respect to the occurrence of capture that undergirds the arguments forwarded by Luck et al. (2020), a dichotomy predicated on arbitrary lines of demarcation over a continuous and temporally-unfolding mental process distributed over multiple regions of the brain. These arbitrary lines of demarcation serve to perpetuate claims that one type of stimulus either does or does not qualify as capturing attention under particular experiment conditions, on which this entire debate rests. I argue that it is more productive to conceptualize issues surrounding the control of attention in terms of the computation of attentional priority, which naturally links together goal-directed and stimulus-driven influences in a richer and more coherent way.
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