Academic journal article Attention, Perception and Psychophysics

The Involvement of Bottom-Up Saliency Processing in Endogenous Inhibition of Return

Academic journal article Attention, Perception and Psychophysics

The Involvement of Bottom-Up Saliency Processing in Endogenous Inhibition of Return

Article excerpt

Published online: 26 October 2011

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2011

Abstract Participants are faster at detecting a visual target when it appears at a cued, as compared with an uncued, location. In general, a reversal of this cost-benefit pattern is observed after exogenous cuing when the cue-target interval exceeds approximately 250 ms (inhibition of return [IOR]), and not after endogenous cuing. We suggest that, usually, no IOR is found with endogenous cues because no bottom-up saliency-based orienting processes are claimed. Therefore, we developed an endogenous feature-based split-cue task to allow for endogenous saliency-based orienting. IOR was observed in the saliency-driven endogenous cuing condition, and not in the control condition that prevented saliency-based orienting. These results suggest that usage of saliency-based orienting processes in either endogenous or exogenous orienting warrants the appearance of IOR.

Keywords Inhibition of return . Attention: Selective


Which elements in the processes underlying inhibition of return (IOR) can account for both its appearance in most exogenous cuing studies and its absence in most endogenous cuing tasks? In the present study, we examined the possibility of IOR being grounded on bottom-up saliencydriven orienting processes. Whereas exogenous cues act upon stimulus saliency, which is associated with low-level stimulus processing, endogenous cues are mostly associated with higher-level processing, involving the task set in working memory. Accordingly, the difference in processing level may account for the variance in the appearance of IOR. To investigate the hypothesis that IOR is linked to mechanisms of low-level saliency processing, we designed a series of experiments with a split-cue technique in order to create endogenous cuing conditions with and without low-level saliency processing.

Attentional facilitation and inhibition

Because of restraints in perceptual processing capacity, attentional mechanisms have to direct the available resources of the visual system toward the portion of the visual field from which to extract information (Wolfe, 1994). This attentional selection may be controlled by the stimulus (stimulus driven) or by the observer (goal driven), which Posner (1980) referred to as exogenous and endogenous attention, respectively.

Posner's (1980) cuing task is one of the prevailing paradigms used for studying visual attention. In this kind of task, the pattern of attentional costs and benefits is measured by the manipulation of a visual warning signal. The warning signal, or cue, preceding the onset of the target stimulus, indicates the location of the upcoming target with a certain probability. With short cue-target intervals (CTIs), participants are faster at detecting the visual target when its position is validly cued (cuing benefits) than when it is invalidly cued (cuing costs; Posner & Cohen, 1984). This facilitation effect has been demonstrated in numerous studies and is thought to reflect speeded perceptual processing of the attended target (Jonides, 1981; Müller & Rabbitt, 1989).

When attention is exogenously directed to a location due to attentional capture of an abrupt onset cue (attentional capture; Remington, Johnston, & Yantis, 1992), the regular facilitation of processing at the cued location lasts only a brief period of time (approximately 250 ms) after cue onset. When CTI exceeds this period, not only does the facilitatory benefit after valid cuing vanish, but also an additional cuing cost sets in. That is, validly cued targets are detected more slowly than uncued and invalidly cued targets. This reversal of the cost-benefit pattern has been termed IOR, to reflect the idea that attention is inhibited from returning to a previously attended location (Posner & Cohen, 1984; Posner, Rafal, Choate, & Vaughn, 1985).

To study exogenous attention, uninformative cues are usually implemented in the Posner paradigm, since exogenous attentional selection is considered to be independent of our intentions (e. …

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