Spatial Cueing Effects Are Not What We Thought: On the Timing of Attentional Deployment

Itay Yaron, Dominique Lamy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Extensive research has shown that objects that are salient or match our task goals are most likely to capture our attention. But are we at the mercy of the constant changes occurring in our environment, and automatically move our attention to the ever-changing location with the highest priority? Or do we wait for clues that the appropriate moment has arrived to deploy our attention? We addressed this hitherto neglected issue in three experiments. Using a spatial-cuing paradigm, we examined whether attention is deployed as soon as a salient change occurs (the cue), or only when the context signaling that attention should be deployed appears (the search display). The cue matched the target color and was expected to enjoy high attentional priority. We used two separate response compatibility manipulations, one pertaining to the cue, in the cuing display, and the other to the cued distractor, in the search display. Neutral conditions allowed us to disentangle the respective effects of these manipulations. Participants deployed their attention in the search display when they could rely on contextual information, and in the cue display when such information was absent. These findings challenge the traditional interpretation of spatial- cuing effects.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)946-962
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance
Issue number7
StatePublished - 2021


  • Attentional capture
  • Attentional deployment
  • Attentional engagement
  • Response compatibility
  • Spatial cuing

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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