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Q J Exp Psychol (Hove). 2009 Feb;62(2):352-69. doi: 10.1080/17470210801954892. Epub 2008 Apr 18.

Voluntary and involuntary attention have different consequences: the effect of perceptual difficulty.

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Psychology Department, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720, USA.


We propose that voluntary and involuntary attention affect different mechanisms and have different consequences for performance measured in reaction time. Voluntary attention enhances the perceptual representation whereas involuntary attention affects the tendency to respond to stimuli in one location or another. In a spatial-cueing paradigm, we manipulated perceptual difficulty and compared voluntary and involuntary attention. For the voluntary-attention condition, the spatial cue was predictive of the target location, whereas in the involuntary-attention condition it was not. Increasing perceptual difficulty increased the attention effect with voluntary attention, but decreased it with involuntary attention. Thus voluntary and involuntary attention have different consequences when perceptual difficulty is manipulated and hence are probably caused by different mechanisms.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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