Date of Award


Author's School

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Author's Department


Degree Name

Master of Arts (AM/MA)

Degree Type



Attention tends to be attracted to eye-catching stimuli, which, however, are not always helpful to look at, depending on the particular task. Recent findings demonstrated that attention to a salient but task-irrelevant distractor could be actively suppressed via a top-down process. In other research, increased scrutiny in visual inspection has been found in the near hand space, making it interesting to question, at the intersection of the two lines of research, whether the ability to ignore salient distraction would be compromised near the hands. Two experiments were conducted to test this idea. Experiment 1 compared the attentional allocation to a salient distractor near to and far from the hands during a visual search task. It was found that while attention to the salient distractor was less than that to a reference non-salient distractor when the hands were far, this pattern reversed when the hands were near, implying potential impairment in attentional suppression near the hands. Attention attracted to the salient distractor, interestingly, did not adversely affect performance on the main visual search task. However, instead of solely supporting the explanation of deficient top-down control of attention, the observed phenomenon could alternatively be caused by a boost in the bottom-up attentional capture near the hands, which, based on the findings of other research that suggested the extra caution in visual inspection near the hands, could be a reasonable concern. Experiment 2 was conducted to test this possibility. Using a task that did not permit suppression of attention, the same amount of attentional capture by the distractor was observed across hand proximity conditions. These results demonstrate that the suppression of attention is impaired near the hands.


English (en)

Chair and Committee

Richard A. Abrams

Committee Members

Julie Bugg, Wouter Kool