Academic journal article Perception and Psychophysics

Inhibition of Return for the Discrimination of Faces

Academic journal article Perception and Psychophysics

Inhibition of Return for the Discrimination of Faces

Article excerpt

When a target appears unpredictably in the same rather than a different location relative to a preceding onset cue, reaction times (RTs) of participants tasked with responding to the target are slowed. This pattern of results, referred to as inhibition of return (IOR), is believed to reflect the operation of a mechanism that prevents perseverative search of nontarget locations. On the grounds that an evolved mechanism might be sensitive to social stimuli, Taylor and Therrien (2005) examined IOR for localization responses under conditions in which cues and targets could be intact face configurations or nonface configurations; contrary to their predictions, there was no influence of cue or target configuration on the magnitude of IOR, indicating that the mere occurrence of taskirrelevant face and nonface stimuli does not alter IOR. In the present study, we further examined this issue in a task that required a face/nonface target discrimination. When target configuration was thereby made task relevant, we found that IOR differed for face and nonface targets in terms of magnitude (when a single cue-target stimulus onset asynchrony was employed) and time course. We suggest that the RT delay associated with IOR may enable additional processing time and/or response selection when a task-relevant face is presented at the cued location.

When an onset cue appears in the visual periphery, it orients covert and/or overt attentional mechanisms exogenously (see, e.g., Rafal, Calabresi, Brennan, & Sciolto, 1989). Targets that appear in the cued location after a brief delay benefit from this exogenously oriented attention (see, e.g., Berger, Dori, & Henik, 1999; Jonides, 1981): They are localized and discriminated more quickly than otherwise identical targets that appear in an uncued location. However, if no target is found in the cued location, then, in the absence of an incentive to maintain attention at the peripheral location, attentional resources are withdrawn. The withdrawal of attention from the cued location reveals an inhibitory aftereffect of the initial cuing (cf. Danziger & Kingstone, 1999; Posner & Cohen, 1984). This aftereffect, referred to as inhibition of return (IOR; Posner, Rafal, Choate, & Vaughan, 1985), is reflected in die slower localization (see, e.g., Maylor, 1985; Taylor & Klein, 2000) and discrimination (see, e.g., Lupiáñez, Milán, Tornay, Madrid, & Tudela, 1997; Lupiáñez, Milliken, Solano, Weaver, & Tipper, 2001; Pratt, Kingstone, & Khoe, 1997) of targets that appear, after a relatively long delay (≥300 msec; Samuel & Kat, 2003), in the cued versus the uncued location.

The mechanism that underlies IOR has been ascribed potential evolutionary significance. In visual search, IOR has been depicted as a foraging facilitator (Klein, 1988; Klein & Maclnnes, 1999), on the grounds that it represents the tagging of locations at which attention has been allocated and subsequently withdrawn, such that nontarget locations that have already been searched are not likely to be reinspected. In addition, the response delay associated with IOR may provide additional time for ongoing behavior to be modified in light of sudden environmental changes (Ivanoff & Taylor, 2006). In both cases, IOR is thought to represent the outcome of an adaptive process that limits perseveration of unwanted responses.

To the extent that the mechanism underlying IOR may have evolved to subserve adaptive behavior, one might expect it to be flexible. In this vein, Taylor and Themen (2005) questioned whether IOR might be differentially sensitive to biologically relevant and irrelevant visual stimuli used as cues and targets. Under the premise that the social context of human evolution has led us to be particularly sensitive to social stimuli, Taylor and Therrien argued that IOR might be modulated by face versus nonface stimuli, even when such stimuli are task irrelevant. Following the view that face processing is special (see, e. …

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