The Control of the Attentional Focus

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We conducted three experiments to examine the characteristics of focal attention. Experiments 1A, 1B and 1C confirmed previous results showing an inverse relation between size of the attentional focus and efficiency of processing. However, we also found attentional benefits with a comparatively short stimulus onset asynchrony. In addition, our results suggested that focusing attention is an exogenously driven reaction: Given a proper stimulus, the attentional system automatically produces a focusing response. Experiments 2 and 3 suggested that the appearance of new objects is a critical factor to capture attention. When the size of the cue that was used for focusing attention was kept constant across trials, attentional benefits disappeared. These results were interpreted as supporting the hypothesis that attentional capture is contingent on an attentional control setting.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: September 1, 1998

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