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01-11-2003 | Original Article | Uitgave 4/2003

Psychological Research 4/2003

Examining the time course of facilitation and inhibition with simultaneous onset and offset cues

Psychological Research > Uitgave 4/2003
Jay Pratt, Marnie Hirshhorn


The experiment conducted examined the effect of simultaneously presented onset and offset cues on the orienting of attention in the visual field. Subjects were presented with a display that consisted of four placeholder boxes around a central fixation point. An onset and an offset cue appeared simultaneously in two of the locations, and the other two locations provided a neutral baseline condition. Reaction times were measured in a simple target detection task with stimulus-onset asynchronies (SOAs) that ranged from 100 ms to 1,000 ms. As expected, the onset cue produced early facilitation and later occurring inhibition of return (IOR). The offset cue produced significant inhibition at all but the earliest SOA. These results suggest that simultaneously presented onset and offset cues both capture attention, but that attention is rapidly disengaged from the location of the offset cue, resulting in earlier occurring IOR. For the onset cues, attention is allocated for a longer period of time, producing the typical pattern of early facilitation and later occurring IOR. The differing time course of attention at each location may reflect separate facilitatory and inhibitory processes, and the priority given to the onset of a stimulus by the attentional system.

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