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. 1996 Sep;39(9):1119-33.
doi: 10.1080/00140139608964533.

Evidence of Strategic Effects in the Modulation of Orienting of Attention


Evidence of Strategic Effects in the Modulation of Orienting of Attention

V Nougier et al. Ergonomics. .


Two models of visual orienting of attention are frequently described. Voluntary orienting is usually induced by central cues that direct subjects' attention to a given location in the visual space. Automatic orienting is provoked by presentation of peripheral cues. It is shown that automatic orienting induces greater attentional costs and benefits, and is less under a subject's control (Jonides 1981). Furthermore, it is not similarly affected by factors such as signal eccentricity (Umiltà et al. 1991). The present experiment was undertaken to investigate how sensitive automatic orienting produced by peripheral cues is to voluntary modulations of attention. In experiment 1, subjects facing situations daily in which attentional requirements are high, were compared to non-practiced ones. In experiment 2, other groups of practiced subjects facing high or low attentional-demanding situations were tested. In both experiments, subjects were asked to respond to signals, presented in rapid succession, in one of two possible locations in space, on each side of central fixation point. The cue signal automatically oriented attention to one of the two locations in which a first stimulus was presented with 100% probability; 100 ms after the first response (RT1), a second response signal (RT2) was delivered either in the same location (valid condition) or in the opposite location (invalid condition). Four cue probabilities were manipulated for this second stimulus: 100%/0%, 80%/20%, 50%/50%, and 20%/80%. Two eccentricities of 3 degrees and 6 degrees were tested. RT2 data demonstrated that (1) there was no eccentricity effect; (2) the higher the cue probability, the greater were the attentional costs; (3) the attentional effects were smaller in the practiced subjects who faced attention-demanding situations daily, than in the other groups. Put together, these data suggest that automatic orienting of attention can be modulated by voluntary attentional processes, according to cue probability. Furthermore, experienced subjects seem to be able to better distribute their attentional resources in space, with increased task requirements. The adoption of an optimal criterion might lead to the use of a cost minimizing strategy.

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