Training attention: Interactions between central cues and reflexive attention

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Three experiments are reported in which we investigate whether the recently reported interactions between central cues (e.g., arrows) and reflexive attention are attributable to the overlearned spatial properties of certain central cues. In all three experiments, a nonpredictive cue with arbitrary spatial properties (a colour patch) is presented prior to a detection target in the left or right visual field. Reaction times to detect targets are compared before and after a training session in which participants are trained to associate each colour patch with left and right space, either via a target detection task in which colour predicts target location 100% of the time (Experiments 1 and 3), or via a left/right motor movement as a function of colour (Experiments 2 and 3). In the first two experiments, a small but highly significant training effect is observed. Participants are approximately 10 ms faster to detect targets at congruent locations relative to incongruent locations after training relative to before training, despite the fact that cue colour was nonpredictive during the test sessions. In Experiment 3, the length of the training session is increased and the magnitude of the training effect also increases as a result. Implications for the interaction between central cues and reflexive attention, as well as premotor theory of attention, are discussed.

Keywords: Attention; Central cues; Premotor theory; Training

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Lincoln, NE, USA 2: Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada

Publication date: August 1, 2008

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