Tanoue RT, Berryhill ME (2012). The mental wormhole: Internal attention shifts without regard for distance. Attention, Perception & Psychophysics, 74, 6, 1199-1215. [ DOI: 10.3758/s1341401203050. ]

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Abstract

Attention operates perceptually on items in the environment, and internally on objects in visuospatial working memory. In the present study, we investigated whether spatial and temporal constraints affecting endogenous perceptual attention extend to internal attention. A retro-cue paradigm in which a cue is presented beyond the range of iconic memory and after stimulus encoding was used to manipulate shifts of internal attention. Participants' memories were tested for colored circles (Experiments 1, 2, 3a, 4) or for novel shapes (Experiment 3b) and their locations within an array. In these experiments, the time to shift internal attention (Experiments 1 and 3) and the eccentricity of encoded objects (Experiments 2-4) were manipulated. Our data showed that, unlike endogenous perceptual attention, internal shifts of attention are not modulated by stimulus eccentricity. Across several timing parameters and stimuli, we found that shifts of internal attention require a minimum quantal amount of time regardless of the object eccentricity at encoding. Our findings are consistent with the view that internal attention operates on objects whose spatial information is represented in relative terms. Although endogenous perceptual attention abides by the laws of space and time, internal attention can shift across spatial representations without regard for physical distance.