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Front Psychol. 2012 Dec 17;3:560. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2012.00560. eCollection 2012.

Automated symbolic orienting: the missing link.

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Department of Psychology, McGill University Montreal, QC, Canada.


Attention can be controlled either exogenously, driven by the stimulus features, or endogenously, driven by the internal expectancies about events in the environment. Extending this prevailing framework, we (Ristic and Kingstone, 2012) recently demonstrated that performance could also be independently controlled by overlearned behaviorally relevant stimuli, like arrows, producing automated effects. Using a difficult target discrimination task within a double cuing paradigm, here we tested whether automated orienting engages selective attention, and if in doing so it draws on its own pool of attentional resources. Our data unequivocally support both possibilities, and indicate that human attention networks are uniquely specialized for processing behaviorally relevant information.


additive factors method; attention; automaticity; behaviorally relevant stimuli; performance; reaction time

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