Unconsciously perceived arrows yield an endogenous, automatic orienting of attention


Symbolic cues have always been thought to elicit voluntary orienting of attention. Arrows, as well as other centrally presented cues, could lead to reflexive shifts of attention, without showing, however, the biphasic pattern (initial facilitation / later inhibition) typical of peripheral automatic orienting. This study evaluated the role of awareness in endogenous orienting of attention, in order to understand whether it is necessary for either automatic or voluntary orienting, or both. Results showed a facilitation at brief cue-target intervals in both the aware and unaware conditions; a tendency to inhibition at longer intervals for non-predictive arrows, but only in the aware condition; a facilitation with no inhibition for predictive arrows, in both the aware and unaware conditions. Our results suggest that arrows can cause automatic shifts of endogenous attention, which can be triggered by unconsciously perceived cues, implying that awareness is not necessary for automatic attention to occur.

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