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Motohiro Ito, Jun Kawahara; The effect of intentional investment of effort on attentional orienting, executive control, and alerting. Journal of Vision 2016;16(12):1294. doi: 10.1167/16.12.1294.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
It is clear that we can control our muscles intentionally, but can we also control our "cognitive muscles", i.e., attention? The present study examined whether participants were able to intentionally regulate attentional function while performing the Attention Network Test (ANT), which is designed to measure three major components of attention: orienting, executive control, and alerting. In this task, participants indicated the direction of a target arrow (left or right) preceded by a spatial cue. In Experiment 1, participants performed the ANT while investing either 50% or 100% of their attentional effort in separate experimental blocks. The results showed that mean reaction times in the 50% block were longer than those in the 100% block, indicating that participants complied with the instruction. The effects of alerting cues and flankers on alerting and executive conflict control function did not vary by condition. However, orienting function was affected by intention; the effect of spatial cueing was stronger in the 50% block than in the 100% block. To specify whether this difference in orienting function was due to functional enhancement in the 50% block or deterioration in the 100% block, we conducted Experiment 2 in which participants received no instruction with regard to the degree of effort they should expend (the neutral condition). The results indicated that the effect of spatial cueing on participants' orientating function was comparable to that observed in the 100% condition in Experiment 1, suggesting that the effect of instruction on orienting observed in Experiment 1 was due to functional enhancement in the 50% block. No such effects were found for conflict control and alerting function. The present study demonstrated that visual attention can be voluntarily controlled but in a counterintuitive direction: the orienting of attention improves when participants invest less cognitive effort.
Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2016
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