Alertness and cognitive control: Is there a spatial attention constraint?
Congruency effects in arrow flanker tasks are often larger when subjects are more alert, suggesting an unusual connection between alertness and cognitive control. Theoretical accounts of the alerting–congruency interaction differ with respect to whether and how spatial attention is involved. In the present study, the author conducted eight experiments to determine whether there is a spatial attention constraint linking alertness to cognitive control. Alertness was manipulated in color-word Stroop tasks involving stimuli that were spatially integrated (Experiments 1–3) or separated (Experiments 4 and 5), as well as in Stroop-like tasks involving spatially separated stimuli for which the irrelevant stimulus features were spatial words (Experiments 6 and 7) or arrows (Experiment 8). All experiments yielded effects of alerting and congruency, but none produced the alerting–congruency interaction typically found with arrow flanker tasks. The results suggest that there is a spatial attention constraint on the relationship between alertness and cognitive control, part of which might involve having a task goal associated with spatial information processing.
KeywordsAlertness Cognitive control Selective attention Spatial attention Stroop task
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