Probability cuing of target location facilitates visual search implicitly in normal participants and patients with hemispatial neglect

Psychol Sci. 2002 Nov;13(6):520-5. doi: 10.1111/1467-9280.00491.


We explored how variability in the probability of target locations affects visual search in normal individuals and in patients with hemispatial neglect, a deficit in attending to the contralesional side of space. Young and elderly normal participants responded faster when targets appeared in the more probable region than when targets appeared in the less probable region. Similarly, patients were sensitive to the distribution of targets, even in the neglected field. Although the attentional gradient that characterizes neglect was not eliminated, the response facilitation due to the probability distribution was proportionate to that of control participants and equal in magnitude across the neglected field. All participants exploited the uneven distribution of targets to enhance task performance without explicit instructions to do so or awareness of biases in their behavior. These results suggest that attentional orientation and sensitivity to external probabilities are possibly dissociable. An early sensory and a late motor mechanism are postulated as possibly being involved in the observed probability-matching behavior of participants.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Brain / physiopathology*
  • Cues*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Orientation / physiology*
  • Perceptual Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Probability*
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology
  • Reaction Time
  • Space Perception / physiology*
  • Visual Perception / physiology*