Contextual control over selective attention: evidence from a two-target method
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Selective attention is generally studied with conflict tasks, using response time as the dependent measure. Here, we study the impact of selective attention to a first target, T1, presented simultaneously with a distractor, on the accuracy of subsequent encoding of a second target item, T2. This procedure produces an "attentional blink" (AB) effect much like that reported in other studies, and allowed us to study the influence of context on cognitive control with a novel method. In particular, we examined whether preparation to attend selectively to T1 had an impact on the selective encoding of T1 that would translate to report of T2. Preparation to attend selectively was manipulated by varying whether difficult selective attention T1 trials were presented in the context of other difficult selective attention T1 trials. The results revealed strong context effects of this nature, with smaller AB effects when difficult selective attention T1 trials were embedded in a context with many, rather than few, other difficult selective attention T1 trials. Further, the results suggest that both the trial-to-trial local context and the block-wide global context modulate performance in this task.
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