Visual attention capacity parameters covary with hemifield alignment

Antje Kraft, Mads Dyrholm, Claus Bundesen, Søren Kyllingsbæk, Norbert Kathmann, Stephan A Brandt
Neuropsychologia 2013, 51 (5): 876-85
The theory of visual attention (TVA; Bundesen, 1990. Psychological Review, 97(4), 523-547), allows one to measure distinct visual attention parameters, such as the temporal threshold for visual perception, visual processing capacity, and visual short-term memory (VSTM) capacity. It has long been assumed that visual processing capacity and VSTM capacity parameters are nearly constant from trial to trial. However, Dyrholm, Kyllingsbæk, Espeseth, and Bundesen (2011). Journal of Mathematical Psychology, 55(6), 416-429, found evidence of considerable trial-by-trial variability of VSTM capacity. Here we show that one cause of trial-by-trial variation is that some parameters depend on whether processing of relevant information occurs in only one hemifield or in both hemifields. Our results show that VSTM and visual processing capacities are higher when stimuli are distributed across the hemifields rather than located in the same hemifield. This corresponds to previous suggestions that parallel processing is more efficient across hemifields than within a single hemifield because both hemispheres are involved (e.g., Alvarez & Cavanagh, 2005. Psychological Science, 16(8), 637-643; Kraft et al., 2005. Cognitive Brain Research, 24(1), 453-463). We argue that the established view of a fixed visual attentional capacity must be relativized by taking hemifield distribution into account.

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