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Regular version of the site

Working paper

Where does attention go when facilitation is absent?

MacInnes W., Bhatnagar R.
Attending a location in space facilitates responses to targets at that location when the time between cue and target is short.  Certain types of exogenous cues – such as sudden peripheral onsets – have been described as reflexive and automatic.  Recent studies however, have been showing many cases where exogenous cues are less automatic than previously believed and do not always result in facilitation.  Given a lack of the behavioral facilitation, we propose to test whether this also suggests a lack of underlying attention to that location.  We test exogenous cueing with saccadic responses at a range of cue-target onset asynchronies (CTOAs), but also alternate measures linked to the allocation of attention such as saccadic curvature, microsaccades and pupil size.  As expected, we find no early facilitation at short CTOAs, and likewise no impact of the cue on microsaccade direction or pupil size.  We do observe a small dip in the frequency of microsaccades after the cue as well as a tendency for saccadic curvature away from the cued location at short CTOAs.  We interpret these results as evidence of reduced attention at the cued location that is removed or inhibited too quickly to be measured as facilitation of saccadic responses.