The notion that certain mental or physical events can capture attention has been one of the most enduring topics in the study of attention owing to the importance of understanding how goal-directed and stimulus-driven processes interact in perception and cognition.
Despite the clear theoretical and applied importance of attentional capture, a broad survey of this field suggests that the term "capture" means different things to different people.
In some cases, it refers to covert shifts of spatial attention, in others involuntary saccades, and in still others general disruption of processing by irrelevant stimuli.
The properties that elicit "capture" can also range from abruptly onset or moving lights, to discontinuities in textures, to unexpected tones, to emotionally valenced words or pictures, to directional signs and symbols.
Attentional capture has been explored in both the spatial and temporal domains as well as the visual and auditory modalities.
There are also a number of different theoretical perspectives on the mechanisms underlying "capture" (both functional and neurophysiological) and the level of cognitive control over capture.
This special issue provides a sampling of the diversity of approaches, domains, and theoretical perspectives that currently exist in the study of attentional capture.
Together, these contributions should help evaluate the degree to which attentional capture represents a unitary construct that reflects fundamental theoretical principles and mechanisms of the mind.