How can we learn what attention is? Response gating via multiple direct routes kept in check by inhibitory control processes
AbstractTo explore the time course of space- and object-based attentional selection processes I analysed the shapes of the response time (RT) and accuracy distributions of left/right arrow identification responses in the two-rectangle paradigm. After cueing one of the four ends of two horizontally or vertically oriented rectangles the arrow typically appears at the cued location (valid), or sometimes at an uncued location in the same (invalid-same) or other rectangle (invalid-different). The
... -different). The data point to a multiple-route model in which (a) an informative cue generates response channel activation before arrow signals emerge, (b) the task-irrelevant arrow location is represented in multiple egocentric and allocentric reference frames around 150 ms after target onset, with the former including a reference frame centered on the currently attended location, (c) the task-irrelevant spatial codes activate premature response tendencies that are actively inhibited to allow gating of arrow direction signals, (d) after an invalid cue the onset of the arrow triggers an "attention shift" – acting between 150 and 240 ms after target onset – that strongly interferes with task performance in certain conditions (invalid-same cueing with horizontal rectangles, and invalid-different cueing with vertical rectangles), and (e) participants differ in which task-irrelevant codes they preferentially inhibit. These results pave the way for future confirmatory studies to temporally characterize and disentangle the contributions of different types of response channel activation processes, from those of reactive cognitive control processes including active and selective response suppression.