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Attention has memory: priming for the size of the attentional focus

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

Repeating the same target's features or spatial position, as well as repeating the same context (e.g. distractor sets) in visual search leads to a decrease of reaction times. This modulation can occur on a trial by trial basis (the previous trial primes the following one), but can also occur across multiple trials (i.e. performance in the current trial can benefit from features, position or context seen several trials earlier), and includes inhibition of different features, position or contexts besides facilitation of the same ones.

Here we asked whether a similar implicit memory mechanism exists for the size of the attentional focus. By manipulating the size of the attentional focus with the repetition of search arrays with the same vs. different size, we found both facilitation for the same array size and inhibition for a different array size, as well as a progressive improvement in performance with increasing the number of repetition of search arrays with the same size.

These results show that implicit memory for the size of the attentional focus can guide visual search even in the absence of feature or position priming, or distractor's contextual effects.

Affiliations: 1: School of Psychology, University of Leicester, Lancaster Road, Leicester LE1 9HN, UK; 2: Dipartimento di Psicologia dello Sviluppo e della Socializzazione, Università di Padova, Italy; 3: Dipartimento di Psicologia Generale, Università di Padova, Via Venezia 8, 35131 Padova, Italy.


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