On the flexibility of sustained attention and its effects on a texture segmentation task

Vision Res. 2008 Jan;48(1):80-95. doi: 10.1016/j.visres.2007.10.015.


Previously we have shown that transient attention--the more automatic, stimulus-driven component of spatial attention--enhances spatial resolution. Specifically, transient attention improves texture segmentation at the periphery, where spatial resolution is too low, but impairs performance at central locations, where spatial resolution is already too high for the task. In the present study we investigated whether sustained attention--the more controlled component of spatial attention-can also affect texture segmentation, and if so whether its effect will be similar to that of transient attention. To that end we combined central, symbolic cues with texture displays in which the target appears at several eccentricities. We found that sustained attention can also affect texture segmentation, but unlike transient attention, sustained attention improved performance at all eccentricities. Comparing the effect of pre-cues and post-cues indicated that the benefit brought about by sustained attention is significantly greater than the effect of location uncertainty reduction. These findings indicate that sustained attention is a more flexible mechanism that can optimize performance at all eccentricities in a task where performance is constrained by spatial resolution.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Attention / physiology*
  • Cues
  • Field Dependence-Independence
  • Fixation, Ocular / physiology
  • Humans
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual / physiology*
  • Photic Stimulation / methods
  • Psychophysics
  • Reaction Time