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21-04-2017 | Original Article | Uitgave 5/2018

Psychological Research 5/2018

Biasing spatial attention with semantic information: an event coding approach

Psychological Research > Uitgave 5/2018
Tarek Amer, Davood G. Gozli, Jay Pratt


We investigated the influence of conceptual processing on visual attention from the standpoint of Theory of Event Coding (TEC). The theory makes two predictions: first, an important factor in determining the influence of event 1 on processing event 2 is whether features of event 1 are bound into a unified representation (i.e., selection or retrieval of event 1). Second, whether processing the two events facilitates or interferes with each other should depend on the extent to which their constituent features overlap. In two experiments, participants performed a visual-attention cueing task, in which the visual target (event 2) was preceded by a relevant or irrelevant explicit (e.g., “UP”) or implicit (e.g., “HAPPY”) spatial-conceptual cue (event 1). Consistent with TEC, we found relevant explicit cues (which featurally overlap to a greater extent with the target) and implicit cues (which featurally overlap to a lesser extent), respectively, facilitated and interfered with target processing at compatible locations. Irrelevant explicit and implicit cues, on the other hand, both facilitated target processing, presumably because they were less likely selected or retrieved as an integrated and unified event file. We argue that such effects, often described as “attentional cueing”, are better accounted for within the event coding framework.

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