Two experiments were conducted to examine whether abrupt onsets are capable of reflexively capturing attention when they occur outside the current focus of spatial attention, as would be expected if exogenous orienting operates in a truly automatic fashion. The authors established a highly focused attentional state by means of the central presentation of a stream of visual or auditory characters, which participants sometimes had to monitor. No intramodal reflexive cuing effects were observed in either audition or vision when participants performed either an exogenous visual or auditory orthogonal cuing task together with the central focused attention task. These results suggest that reflexive unimodal orienting is not truly automatic. The fact that cuing effects were eliminated under both unimodal and cross-modal conditions is consistent with the view that auditory and visual reflexive spatial orienting are controlled by a common underlying neural substrate.
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