JOURNAL ARTICLE

Facilitation and inhibition arising from the exogenous orienting of covert attention depends on the temporal properties of spatial cues and targets

P Maruff, M Yucel, J Danckert, G Stuart, J Currie
Neuropsychologia 1999, 37 (6): 731-44
10390035
On the covert orienting of visual attention task (COVAT), responses to targets appearing at the location indicated by a non-predictive spatial cue are faster than responses to targets appearing at uncued locations when stimulus onset asynchrony (SOA) is less than approximately 200 ms. For longer SOAs, this pattern reverses and RTs to targets appearing at uncued locations become faster than RTs to targets appearing at the cued location. This facilitation followed by inhibition has been termed the biphasic effect of non-predictive peripheral spatial cues. Currently, there is debate about whether these two processes are independent. This issue was addressed in a series of experiments where the temporal overlap between the peripheral cue and target was manipulated at both short and long SOAs. Results showed that facilitation was present only when the SOA was short and there was temporal overlap between cue and target. Conversely, inhibition occurred only when the SOA was long and there was no temporal overlap between cue and target. The biphasic effect, with an early facilitation followed by a later inhibition, occurred only when the cue duration was fixed such that there was temporal overlap between the cue and target at short but not long SOAs. In a final experiment, the duration of targets the temporal overlap between cue and target and the SOA were manipulated factorially. The results showed that facilitation occurred only when the SOA was short, there was temporal overlap between cue and target and the target remained visible until the subject responded. These results suggest that the facilitation and inhibition found on COVATs which use non-informative peripheral cues are independent processes and their presence and magnitude is related to the temporal properties of cues and targets.

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