Probabilistic versus “Pure” Volitional Orienting: a Monocular Difference

William Saban, Raymond M. Klein, Shai Gabay

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Human volitional orienting is typically assessed using Posner’s endogenous cuing task. As a volitional process, the literature has long emphasized the role of neocortical structures in this higher cognitive function. Based on recent data, we explored the possibility that subcortical channels may have a functional role in volitional orienting as measured by a Posner cuing task in which a nonspatial feature of a centrally presented cue is predictively related to the location of the target. In addition, we have compared this typical cuing task to a "purer" version, which does not involve the probability manipulation. A sensitive behavioral method was used to probe the contribution of monocular channels (mostly subcortical) in the two types of endogenous orienting tasks. In both tasks, a spatially informative cue and its ensuing target were presented to the same or different eyes at varying cue-target intervals. In the typically used endogenous task, the onset of facilitation was apparent earlier when the cue and target were presented to the same eye. In contrast, in the "pure" task no difference was found between the two eye-of-origin conditions. These data support the notion that endogenous facilitation, as measured in the typical Posner cuing task, involves lower monocular regions. Hence, in the typical endogenous task, which was developed to explore "volitional" orienting, a simple associative learning mechanism might elicit monocular, rapid orienting responses. Notably, the typical volitional orienting paradigm might be contaminated by simple contingency benefits and thus may not provide a pure measure of volitional processes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)669-676
Number of pages8
JournalAttention, Perception, and Psychophysics
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Apr 2018


  • Attention
  • Attention: Neural Mechanisms
  • Spatial cognition

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Sensory Systems
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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