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10-08-2018 | Original Article Open Access

Shared attention for action selection and action monitoring in goal-directed reaching

Psychological Research
Aoife Mahon, Solveiga Bendžiūtė, Constanze Hesse, Amelia R. Hunt
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The online version of this article (https://​doi.​org/​10.​1007/​s00426-018-1064-x) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.


Dual-task studies have shown higher sensitivity for stimuli presented at the targets of upcoming actions. We examined whether attention is directed to action targets for the purpose of action selection, or if attention is directed to these locations because they are expected to provide feedback about movement outcomes. In our experiment, endpoint accuracy feedback was spatially separated from the action targets to determine whether attention would be allocated to (a) the action targets, (b) the expected source of feedback, or (c) to both locations. Participants reached towards a location indicated by an arrow while identifying a discrimination target that could appear in any one of eight possible locations. Discrimination target accuracy was used as a measure of attention allocation. Participants were unable to see their hand during reaching and were provided with a small monetary reward for each accurate movement. Discrimination target accuracy was best at action targets but was also enhanced at the spatially separated feedback locations. Separating feedback from the reaching targets did not diminish discrimination accuracy at the movement targets but did result in delayed movement initiation and reduced reaching accuracy, relative to when feedback was presented at the reaching target. The results suggest attention is required for both action planning and monitoring movement outcomes. Dividing attention between these functions negatively impacts action performance.

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