How does language affect spatial attention? Deconstructing the prime-target relationship

Samuel Shaki, Martin H. Fischer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


It is still unclear how spatially associated concepts (e.g., directional expressions, object names, metaphors) shape our cognitive experience. Here, two experiments (N = 156) investigated the mechanisms by which words with either explicit or implicit spatial meaning induce spatial attention shifts. Participants performed a visual target-discrimination task according to response rules that required different degrees of prime and target processing depth. For explicit prime words, we found spatial congruency effects independent of processing depth, while implicit prime words generated congruency effects only when participants had to compute the congruency relationship. These results were robust across different prime-target intervals and imply that spatial connotations alone do not automatically activate spatial attention shifts. Instead, explicit semantic analysis is a prerequisite for conceptual cueing.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1115-1124
Number of pages10
JournalMemory and Cognition
Issue number5
StatePublished - Jul 2023


  • Attentional shift
  • Conceptual cueing
  • Cue-probe paradigm
  • Processing depth
  • Semantic priming
  • Spatial priming

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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