Attentional priming: recent insights and current controversies

Curr Opin Psychol. 2019 Oct;29:71-75. doi: 10.1016/j.copsyc.2018.11.013. Epub 2018 Nov 28.


Humans possess a primitive memory system for attention deployments that allows quick reorientation of visual attention to stimuli that are relevant to behavior at any given moment. We review recent evidence regarding such attentional priming effects from a number of different perspectives. We discuss recent findings on the time course and duration of such effects, the potential interaction of priming and top-down attentional guidance; how priming can be used to probe the nature of visual representations and attentional templates; findings on the basic nature of priming effects and recent relevant findings on so-called serial dependencies that share many characteristics with attentional priming. Our discussion shows that priming effects are strong and occur on many levels of perceptual processing, and that these effects cannot and should not be thought of as reflecting the operation of any single type of mechanism. Additionally, our overview shows the utility of these paradigms in answering questions about how we represent statistical regularities of stimuli in our environment.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Attention / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Memory
  • Visual Perception*