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Michael Grubb, Devin Butler; Associative learning accelerates the temporal dynamics of covert exogenous spatial attention. Journal of Vision 2018;18(10):1258. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/18.10.1258.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
Introduction: Abrupt onsets trigger the reflexive allocation of covert attention, speeding visual information processing and improving discriminability at exogenously attended locations. In the lab, neutral stimuli (e.g., small circles) are typically used to study exogenous attention. Abrupt onsets encountered in daily life, however, often carry meaning (e.g., in Gmail, onsets in the lower right visual field not only capture attention, but also signal incoming Instant Messages, thanks to a learned association). Does the behavioral signature of covert exogenous spatial attention change when elicited by meaning-imbued onsets? Methods: On each trial, covert attention was manipulated with a peripheral onset, and two Gabor patches were briefly presented at 8° eccentricity (left/right of fixation). In line with a response cue, observers reported the target Gabor's orientation (clockwise/counterclockwise of vertical). Exogenous cues were valid (small circle presented near target location) or invalid (presented near distractor location); cue validity was 50%, cue-target SOA varied (33-133ms), and the cue was equally likely to be black or white in color. One color became meaning-imbued: following correct responses, observers were shown a randomly selected Emoji at fixation, but only when the peripheral onset had been rendered in the meaning-imbued color. Thus, observers learned to associate one type of onset (black or white peripheral circle, counterbalanced across observers) with the presentation of a novel, visually-pleasing stimulus; the other onset type provided a meaning-non-imbued baseline for each observer. A centrally-presented "X" followed all incorrect responses. Results: Both types of onsets modulated task performance (evidenced by increased accuracy and faster RTs for valid, relative to invalid, cues), but meaning-imbued onsets accelerated the timecourse: cueing effects were significantly larger at early SOAs for Emoji-predictive onsets, compared to non-predictive onsets. Conclusion: The temporal dynamics of covert exogenous spatial attention are accelerated when attentional allocation is triggered by a meaning-imbued onset.
Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2018
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