Attention and spatial selection: electrophysiological evidence for modulation by perceptual load

T C Handy and G R Mangun (2000). Percept Psychophys, 62(1):175-86.

Behavioral data have suggested that perceptual load can modulate spatial selection by influencing the allocation of attentional resources at perceptual-level processing stages (Lavie & Tsal, 1994). To directly test this hypothesis, event-related potentials (ERPs) were recorded for both low- and high-perceptual-load targets in a probabilistic spatial cuing paradigm. The results from three experiments showed that, as measured by the lateral occipitalP1 and N1 ERP components, the magnitude of spatially selective processing in extrastriate visual cortex increased with perceptual load. Furthermore, these effects on spatial selection were found in the P1 at lower levels of perceptual load than in the N1. The ERP data thus provide direct electrophysiological support for proposals that link perceptual load to early spatial selection in visual processing. However, our findings suggest a relatively broader model–where perceptual load is but one of many factors mediating early selection.

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