Perceptual load affects spatial and nonspatial visual selection processes: An event-related brain potential study
ABSTRACT One major question toward understanding selective attention regards the efficiency of selection. One theory contends that this efficiency in vision is determined primarily by the perceptual load (PL) imposed by the relevant stimuli; if this load is high enough to fill attentional capacity, irrelevant stimuli will be excluded before they interfere with task performance, but if this load is lower the spare capacity will be directed automatically to the irrelevant information, which will then interfere with task performance. The current study attempts to test and extend this theory in order to understand better the role of PL by examining its effects on event-related brain potentials (ERPs), voltage fluctuations recorded at the scalp that reflect underlying cognitive operations. Stimuli were presented one at a time, and subjects were instructed to respond to rare deviant stimuli that appeared within a relevant stimulus channel and to ignore stimuli in an irrelevant channel, where channel was defined by either spatial (left, right) or nonspatial (red, blue) attributes in separate tasks. PL was manipulated by varying the similarity between the target/deviant and standard stimulus, and increases in PL were found to increase the magnitude of the relevant-irrelevant difference waveforms in both tasks at predicted temporal windows. These findings suggest that PL affects attentional selection that is tonically maintained across many experimental trials, and does so not only when selection is spatially based but also when it is based upon nonspatial cues.
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ABSTRACT: A growing literature suggests that working memory and attention are closely related constructs. Both involve the selection of task-relevant information, and both are characterized by capacity limits. Furthermore, studies using a variety of methodological approaches have demonstrated convergent working memory and attention-related processing at the individual, neural and behavioral level. Given the varieties of both constructs, the specific kinds of attention and WM must be considered. We find that individuals' working memory capacity (WMC) uniquely interacts with feature-based attention when combined with spatial attention in a cuing paradigm (Posner, 1980). Our findings suggest a positive correlation between WM and feature-based attention only within the spotlight of spatial attention. This finding lends support to the controlled attention view of working memory by demonstrating that integrated feature-based expectancies are uniquely correlated with individual performance on a working memory task.Attention Perception & Psychophysics 01/2011; 73(1):86-102. DOI:10.3758/s13414-010-0020-7 · 2.15 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: Converging electrophysiological and brain-imaging results show that sensory processing in V1 can be modulated by attention. In this study, we tested the prediction that this early filtering effect depends on the current affective state of the participant. We recorded visual evoked potentials (VEPs) to visual peripheral distractors while participants performed a demanding task at fixation, whose perceptual load was manipulated in a parametric fashion. Crucially, levels of negative affect were either increased or decreased independently of changes in perceptual load. Concurrent psychophysiological measurements and self-report scales confirmed that changes in emotional state were effective. In the control condition, ERP results showed that the C1 component generated in response to the exact same peripheral distractors systematically varied in amplitude with the amount of perceptual load imposed at fixation, being larger when perceptual load decreased. However, this early modulatory effect in V1 was disrupted when participants transiently experienced increased state anxiety, resulting in a decreased C1 amplitude even though task load at fixation remained low. These results suggest that early bottom-up processing in V1 is not only influenced by the amount of attention resources available, but also by the current internal state of the participant.NeuroImage 02/2012; 60(4):2365-78. DOI:10.1016/j.neuroimage.2012.02.007 · 6.13 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: Research suggests that visual selective attention develops across childhood. However, there is relatively little understanding of the neurological changes that accompany this development, particularly in the context of adult theories of selective attention, such as N. Lavie's (1995) perceptual load theory of attention. This study examined visual selective attention across development from 7 years of age to adulthood. Specifically, the author examined if changes in processing as a function of selective attention are similarly influenced by perceptual load across development. Participants were asked to complete a task at either low or high perceptual load while processing of an unattended probe stimulus was examined using event related potentials. Similar to adults, children and teens showed reduced processing of the unattended stimulus as perceptual load increased at the P1 visual component. However, although there were no qualitative differences in changes in processing, there were quantitative differences, with shorter P1 latencies in teens and adults compared with children, suggesting increases in the speed of processing across development. In addition, younger children did not need as high a perceptual load to achieve the same difference in performance between low and high perceptual load as adults. Thus, this study demonstrates that although there are developmental changes in visual selective attention, the mechanisms by which visual selective attention is achieved in children may share similarities with adults.Developmental Psychology 06/2011; 47(5):1431-9. DOI:10.1037/a0024027 · 3.21 Impact Factor