Bottom-up and top-down attention are independent

Yair Pinto, Andries R van der Leij, Ilja G Sligte, Victor A F Lamme, H Steven Scholte

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

84 Citations (Scopus)


What is the relationship between top-down and bottom-up attention? Are both types of attention tightly interconnected, or are they independent? We investigated this by testing a large representative sample of the Dutch population on two attentional tasks: a visual search task gauging the efficiency of top-down attention and a singleton capture task gauging bottom-up attention. On both tasks we found typical performance--i.e., participants displayed a significant search slope on the search task and significant slowing caused by the unique, but irrelevant, object on the capture task. Moreover, the high levels of significance we observed indicate that the current set-up provided very high signal to noise ratios, and thus enough power to accurately unveil existing effects. Importantly, in this robust investigation we did not observe any correlation in performance between tasks. The use of Bayesian statistics strongly confirmed that performance on both tasks was uncorrelated. We argue that the current results suggest that there are two attentional systems that operate independently. We hypothesize that this may have implications beyond our understanding of attention. For instance, it may be that attention and consciousness are intertwined differently for top-down attention than for bottom-up attention.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)16
JournalJournal of Vision
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2013


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