Spatial cueing effects are not what we thought: on the timing of attentional deployment

BioRxiv : the Preprint Server for Biology
I. Yaron, Dominique Lamy


Extensive research has shown that objects that are salient or match our task goals are most likely to capture attention. But are we at the mercy of the constant changes occurring in our environment, and automatically move our attention to the ever-changing location with the highest priority? Or do we wait for clues that the appropriate moment has arrived to deploy our attention? We addressed this hitherto neglected issue in three experiments. Using a spatial-cueing paradigm, we examined whether attention is deployed as soon as a salient change occurs (the cue), or only when the context signaling that attention should be deployed appears (the search display). The cue matched the target color and was therefore expected to enjoy high attentional priority. We used two separate response compatibility manipulations, one pertaining to the cue, in the cueing display, and the other to the cued distractor, in the search display. Neutral conditions allowed us to disentangle the respective effects of these manipulations. Our results support the hypothesis that attention does not occur until the search-relevant context appears. These findings challenge the traditional interpretation of spatial-cueing effects. They are discussed within the P...Continue Reading

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