Mexican Hat Modulation of Visual Acuity Following an Exogenous Cue

Orit Baruch, Liat Goldfarb

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Classical models of exogenous attention suggest that attentional enhancement at the focus of attention degrades gradually with distance from the attended location. On the other hand, the Attentional Attraction Field (AAF) model (Baruch and Yeshurun, 2014) suggests that the shift of receptive fields toward the attended location, reported by several physiological studies, leads to a decreased density of RFs at the attentional surrounds and hence the model predicts that the modulation of performance by spatial attention may have the shape of a Mexican Hat. Motivated by these theories, this study presents behavioral evidence in support of a Mexican Hat shaped modulation in exogenous spatial tasks that appears only at short latencies. In two experiments participants had to decide the location of a small gap in a target circle that was preceded by a non-informative attention capturing cue. The distance between cue and target and the latency between their onsets were varied. At short SOAs the performance curves were cubic and only at longer SOAs- this trend turned linear. Our results suggest that a rapid Mexican Hat modulation is an inherent property of the mechanism underlying exogenous attention and that a monotonically degrading trend, such as advocated by classical models, develops only at later stages of processing. The involvements of bottom-up processes such as the attraction of RFs to the focus of attention are further discussed.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number854
Pages (from-to)1-17
Number of pages17
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
StatePublished - 15 May 2020


  • Mexican Hat modulation
  • bottom-up processes
  • exogenous
  • reflexive attention
  • visual acuity
  • visual attention

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Psychology


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