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Attentive mechanisms in visual search

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image of Spatial Vision
For more content, see Multisensory Research and Seeing and Perceiving.

Selective attention can be employed to a restricted region in space or to specific objects. Many properties of this attentional window or spotlight are not well understood. In the present study, we examined the question whether the putative shape of the attentional spotlight can be determined by endogenous cueing within a visual search paradigm. Participants searched for a target among distractors, which were arranged within a vertical or horizontal rectangle. The shape of this rectangle was cued endogenously in a valid or invalid way. Response times (RTs) to correct identification of target orientation were recorded. In Experiment 1, the difference between valid and invalid RTs demonstrated that cueing resulted in elongated attentional areas. This was true only for a group of experienced psychophysical participants, whereas a group of inexperienced participants were not able to use cueing in this way. In Experiment 2, the line motion illusion was used to examine the spatial properties of the attended area. The results confirmed for both experienced and inexperienced participants that attention was confined to the cued elongated area only. We present converging evidence for an attentional spotlight whose shape can be adjusted flexibly by appropriate endogenous cueing.


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