Attention: Reaction time and accuracy reveal different mechanisms

  • Prinzmetal W
  • McCool C
  • Park S
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The authors propose that there are 2 different mechanisms whereby spatial cues capture attention. The voluntary mechanism is the strategic allocation of perceptual resources to the location most likely to contain the target. The involuntary mechanism is a reflexive orienting response that occurs even when the spatial cue does not indicate the probable target location. Voluntary attention enhances the perceptual representation of the stimulus in the cued location relative to other locations. Hence, voluntary attention affects performance in experiments designed around both accuracy and reaction time. Involuntary attention affects a decision as to which location should be responded to. Because involuntary attention does not change the perceptual representation, it affects performance in reaction time experiments but not accuracy experiments. The authors obtained this pattern of results in 4 different versions of the spatial cuing paradigm.

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  • William Prinzmetal

  • Christin McCool

  • Samuel Park

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