Additive and interactive effects of spatial attention and expectation on perceptual decisions

Sci Rep. 2018 Apr 30;8(1):6732. doi: 10.1038/s41598-018-24703-6.


Spatial attention and expectation are two critical top-down mechanisms controlling perceptual inference. Based on previous research it remains unclear whether their influence on perceptual decisions is additive or interactive. We developed a novel multisensory approach that orthogonally manipulated spatial attention (i.e. task-relevance) and expectation (i.e. signal probability) selectively in audition and evaluated their effects on observers' responses in vision. Critically, while experiment 1 manipulated expectation directly via the probability of task-relevant auditory targets across hemifields, experiment 2 manipulated it indirectly via task-irrelevant auditory non-targets. Surprisingly, our results demonstrate that spatial attention and signal probability influence perceptual decisions either additively or interactively. These seemingly contradictory results can be explained parsimoniously by a model that combines spatial attention, general and spatially selective response probabilities as predictors with no direct influence of signal probability. Our model provides a novel perspective on how spatial attention and expectation facilitate effective interactions with the environment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation / psychology
  • Adult
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Auditory Perception / physiology
  • Decision Making / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Motivation / physiology*
  • Photic Stimulation / methods
  • Psychology, Social*
  • Visual Perception / physiology