Implicit Learning Modulates Selective Attention at Sensory Levels of Perceptual Processing

By Couperus, Jane W. | Perception and Psychophysics, February 2009 | Go to article overview

Implicit Learning Modulates Selective Attention at Sensory Levels of Perceptual Processing


Couperus, Jane W., Perception and Psychophysics


Electrophysiological evidence suggests that attention can be modulated as early as 100 msec after stimulus presentation. However, it is not clear whether these changes are based primarily on stimulus properties such as perceptual load (i.e., the level of perceptual difficulty), or other properties, such as general attentional set or learned expectations concerning perceptual load. Using event-related potentials, this study examined how implicit learning of perceptual load conditions modulates selective attention at sensory levels of perceptual analysis. The results show significant differences in P1 amplitude recorded over occipital areas of the brain as a function of learned expectations of perceptual load, only when perceptual load could be reliably predicted by the preceding stimuli. Moreover, differences in processing were found when both low and high perceptual load conditions could be predicted. These findings suggest that implicit learning modulates the allocation of attention at early stages of perceptual processing.

Imagine an infant entering the world, bombarded by information. How does he or she focus attention to select out important information so as not to be overwhelmed by the vast amount that is available? Fortunately, humans have a valuable tool to help guide attention: implicit learning. Implicit learning is defined as the ability to learn without conscious awareness. Although research suggests that attention is modulated by implicit learning (see, e.g., Jiang & Chun, 2001, 2003), it is not clear how early in processing this modulation occurs. Previous research suggests that attention can modulate processing of stimuli at sensory levels of analysis (for reviews, see Mangun, 1995, and Mangun & Hillyard, 1995). Thus, it seems reasonable for one to suggest that implicit learning may indirectly act at this early stage of perceptual processing by modulating selective attention, making it easier to function in a stimulus-rich environment.

There are multiple theories that attempt to explain the mechanisms of early attentional selection (see, e.g., Broadbent, 1958; Lavie, 1995; Treisman & Gelade, 1980); however, the specifics of attentional selection are still contested. For example, Lavie's perceptual load theory of selective attention (Lavie, 1995; Lavie, Hirst, de Fockert, & Viding, 2004) implies that early attentional selection is influenced by perceptual features and the type of perceptual analysis required. Support for this idea can be found in electrophysiological studies that have shown changes in selective attention as a function of perceptual load as early as sensory-level processing in the extrastriate cortex (Handy & Mangun, 2000; Handy, Soltani, & Mangun, 2001). For example, when presented with a difficult perceptual discrimination (i.e., high perceptual load), attention is more narrowly focused, reducing the processing of a parafoveal distractor (Handy et al., 2001). This description of the narrowing of attention can be understood as a spotlight or a zoom lens (Posner & Petersen, 1990), whereby attention is more diffuse under conditions of low perceptual load than of high perceptual load. Theeuwes, Kramer, and Belopolsky (2004) refined and extended this claim, suggesting that perceptual load alone is not sufficient for early attentional selectivity. They demonstrated that selective attention was most efficient during high perceptual load conditions in a block of high-load stimuli or if the current high-load stimulus was preceded by another high-load stimulus. Selection was not efficient when a high-load stimulus was preceded by a low-load stimulus. Thus, early attentional selection may be modified by other factors in addition to perceptual load, at least in conditions of high perceptual load.

Despite the aforementioned research, questions remain concerning the mechanisms of early attentional selection. Thus, it is important that we explore potential factors that may influence this process. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • A full archive of books and articles related to this one
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Implicit Learning Modulates Selective Attention at Sensory Levels of Perceptual Processing
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

    Already a member? Log in now.