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Psychol Sci. 2015 Jul;26(7):1114-22. doi: 10.1177/0956797615577619. Epub 2015 May 11.

Visualizing Trumps Vision in Training Attention.

Author information

1
Department of Psychology, Center for Integrative and Cognitive Neuroscience, and Vanderbilt Vision Research Center, Vanderbilt University.
2
Department of Psychology, Center for Integrative and Cognitive Neuroscience, and Vanderbilt Vision Research Center, Vanderbilt University geoffrey.f.woodman@vanderbilt.edu.

Abstract

Mental imagery can have powerful training effects on behavior, but how this occurs is not well understood. Here we show that even a single instance of mental imagery can improve attentional selection of a target more effectively than actually practicing visual search. By recording subjects' brain activity, we found that these imagery-induced training effects were due to perceptual attention being more effectively focused on targets following imagined training. Next, we examined the downside of this potent training by changing the target after several trials of training attention with imagery and found that imagined search resulted in more potent interference than actual practice following these target changes. Finally, we found that proactive interference from task-irrelevant elements in the visual displays appears to underlie the superiority of imagined training relative to actual practice. Our findings demonstrate that visual attention mechanisms can be effectively trained to select target objects in the absence of visual input, and this results in more effective control of attention than practicing the task itself.

KEYWORDS:

event-related potentials; learning; mental imagery; open materials; perception; visual attention; visual search

PMID:
25963615
PMCID:
PMC4504754
DOI:
10.1177/0956797615577619
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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