Exogenous orienting of crossmodal attention in 3-D space: Support for a depth-aware crossmodal attentional system


The aim of the present study was to investigate exogenous crossmodal orienting of attention in three-dimensional (3-D) space. Most studies in which the orienting of attention has been examined in 3-D space concerned either exogenous intramodal or endogenous crossmodal attention. Evidence for exogenous crossmodal orienting of attention in depth is lacking. Endogenous and exogenous attention are behaviorally different, suggesting that they are two different mechanisms. We used the orthogonal spatial-cueing paradigm and presented auditory exogenous cues at one of four possible locations in near or far space before the onset of a visual target. Cues could be presented at the same (valid) or at a different (invalid) depth from the target (radial validity), and on the same (valid) or on a different (invalid) side (horizontal validity), whereas we blocked the depth at which visual targets were presented. Next to an overall validity effect (valid RTs < invalid RTs) in horizontal space, we observed an interaction between the horizontal and radial validity of the cue: The horizontal validity effect was present only when the cue and the target were presented at the same depth. No horizontal validity effect was observed when the cue and the target were presented at different depths. These results suggest that exogenous crossmodal attention is “depth-aware,” and they are discussed in the context of the supramodal hypothesis of attention.

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  1. 1.

    Ten participants who were not part of the main experiment sample (five female, five male; mean age = 25.70 years, SD = 3.13) were tested with a four-choice localization task in the same setup as in the main experiment. They were instructed to maintain fixation on a black fixation cross (0.5º × 0.5º, 0.20 cd/m2) presented on a light gray background (4.79 cd/m2) in near space (80 cm). The average accuracy of 3-D localization was significantly above chance (M = .55, SD = .16) [t(9) = −6.00, p < .001].

  2. 2.

    Note that we did not track eye movements, and therefore that we cannot draw any conclusions about whether any exogenous cueing effects were due to covert or overt exogenous orienting of attention. The results will still be able to indicate whether attention can be exogenously shifted in 3-D space in a crossmodal way.


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Author Note

The authors thank Jesse Smit, Marieke Janssen, and Jorinde Duits for their assistance in collecting data. This research was funded by two grants from the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research: Grant Nos. 451-09-019 (to S.V.d.S.) and 451-10-013 (to T.C.W.N.).

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Correspondence to Nathan Van der Stoep.

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Van der Stoep, N., Nijboer, T.C.W. & Van der Stigchel, S. Exogenous orienting of crossmodal attention in 3-D space: Support for a depth-aware crossmodal attentional system. Psychon Bull Rev 21, 708–714 (2014). https://doi.org/10.3758/s13423-013-0532-y

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  • Cueing
  • Exogenous
  • Orthogonal
  • Space
  • 3-D
  • Attention