The attentional mechanism of temporal orienting: determinants and attributes

Exp Brain Res. 2006 Feb;169(1):58-68. doi: 10.1007/s00221-005-0131-x. Epub 2005 Nov 5.


A review of traditional research on preparation and foreperiod has identified strategic (endogenous) and automatic (exogenous) factors probably involved in endogenous temporal-orienting experiments, such as the type of task, the way by which temporal expectancy is manipulated, the probability of target occurrence and automatic sequential effects, yet their combined impact had not been investigated. These factors were manipulated within the same temporal-orienting procedure, in which a temporal cue indicated that the target could appear after an interval of either 400 or 1,400 ms. We observed faster reaction times for validly versus invalidly cued targets, that is, endogenous temporal-orienting effects. The main results were that the probability of target occurrence (catch-trial proportion) modulated temporal orienting, such that the attentional effects at the short interval were independent of catch trials, whereas at the long interval the effects were only observed when catch trials were present. In contrast, the interval duration of the previous trial (i.e., exogenous sequential effects) did not influence endogenous temporal orienting. A flexible and endogenous mechanism of attentional orienting in time can account for these results. Despite the contribution of other factors, the use of predictive temporal cues was sufficient to yield attentional facilitation based on temporal expectancy.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Attention / physiology*
  • Cues
  • Discrimination, Psychological / physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Orientation / physiology*
  • Reaction Time / physiology*
  • Time Factors
  • Time Perception / physiology*