The time course of attention: selection is transient

A.M. Wilschut, J. Theeuwes, C.N.L. Olivers

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The time course of attention has often been investigated using a spatial cuing task. However, attention likely consists of multiple components, such as selectivity (resolving competition) and orienting (spatial shifting). Here we sought to investigate the time course of the selective aspect of attention, using a cuing task that did not require spatial shifting. In several experiments, targets were always presented at central fixation, and were preceded by a cue at different cue-target intervals. The selection component of attention was investigated by manipulating the presence of distractors. Regardless of the presence of distractors, an initial rapid performance enhancement was found that reached its maximum at around 100 ms post cue onset. Subsequently, when the target was the only item in the display, performance was sustained, but when the target was accompanied by irrelevant distractor items, performance declined. This temporal pattern matches closely with the transient attention response that has been found in spatial cuing studies, and shows that the selectivity aspect of attention is transient. © 2011 Wilschut et al.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e27661
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 2011


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