Categorically defined targets trigger spatiotemporal visual attention

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Colleges, School and Institutes


Transient attention to a visually salient cue enhances processing of a subsequent target in the same spatial location between 50 to 150 ms after cue onset (K. Nakayama & M. Mackeben, 1989). Do stimuli from a categorically defined target set, such as letters or digits, also generate transient attention? Participants reported digit targets among keyboard symbols in a changing array of 8 items. When 1 target preceded a second target in the same location at a stimulus onset asynchrony of 107 ms (but not 213 ms), the second target was reported more often than in a condition in which there was no leading target. When the 2 targets were at different locations, report of the second target was impaired. With both letters and digits as targets, the enhancement effect was shown not to be due to category priming. Critically, the attentional benefit was present whether or not participants reported the leading target. Transient attention, contingent attentional capture, popout, and Lag 1 sparing in the attentional blink may involve a common mechanism for orienting processing resources towards salient and task relevant stimuli.

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)324-337
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2009


  • Adolescent, Adult, Analysis of Variance, Attention, Cues, Discrimination (Psychology), Field Dependence-Independence, Humans, Orientation, Photic Stimulation, Probability Learning, Reaction Time, Reference Values, Space Perception, Time Factors, Young Adult