Distractor's salience does not determine feature suppression: A commentary on Wang and Theeuwes (2020)

Aniruddha Ramgir, Dominique Lamy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


There is ongoing debate as to whether distraction by salient irrelevant objects can be avoided by suppressing their salient features. Lamy suggested that a central reason for this stalemate is methodological: researchers often base their conclusions on whether the presence of the salient distractor yields net interference (interpreted as capture) or benefit (interpreted as suppression), instead of investigating how manipulating inhibitory suppression modulates these effects. Here, we validate this observation by revisiting Wang and Theeuwes' findings showing that a color singleton distractor produced a net cost with dense search displays and a net benefit with sparse displays. They concluded that only mildly salient distractors can be suppressed. In two experiments, we orthogonally manipulated distractor salience and feature-based suppression. Participants searched for a shape and a color singleton was sometimes present. Search displays were either sparse or dense and the singleton's color changed on each block. Distractor feature-based suppression was measured as a reduction in distractor interference in the second relative to the first half of each block. We replicated Wang and Theeuwes' findings but invalidated their interpretation by showing that participants learned to suppress the color singleton equally well when displays were sparse and when they were dense. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2023 APA, all rights reserved).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)852-861
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1 Jun 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

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


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