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Differential effects of visual-spatial attention on response latency and temporal-order judgment

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Theorists from both classical structuralism and modern attention research have claimed that attention to a sensory stimulus enhances processing speed. However, they have used different operations to measure this effect, viz., temporal-order judgment (TOJ) and reaction-time (RT) measurement. We report two experiments that compared the effect of a spatial cue on RT and TOJ. Experiment 1 demonstrated that a nonmasked, peripheral cue (the brief brightening of a box) affected both RT and TOJ. However, the former effect was significantly larger than the latter. A masked cue had a smaller, but reliable, effect on TOJ. In Experiment 2, the effects of a masked cue on RT and TOJ were compared under identical stimulus conditions. While the cue had a strong effect on RT, it left TOJ unaffected. These results suggest that a spatial cue may have dissociable effects on response processes and the processes that lead to a conscious percept. Implications for the concept of direct parameter specification and for theories of visual attention are discussed.

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Correspondence to Odmar Neumann.

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Neumann, O., Esselmann, U. & Klotz, W. Differential effects of visual-spatial attention on response latency and temporal-order judgment. Psychol. Res 56, 26–34 (1993). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00572130

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  • Differential Effect
  • Response Latency
  • Visual Attention
  • Processing Speed
  • Stimulus Condition