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    How the speed of motor-response decisions, but not focal-attentional selection, differs as a function of task set and target prevalence

    Tollner, T. and Rangelov, D. and Muller, Hermann J. (2012) How the speed of motor-response decisions, but not focal-attentional selection, differs as a function of task set and target prevalence. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 109 (28), E1990-E1999. ISSN 0027-8424.

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    Over the last decades, the visual-search paradigm has provided a powerful test bed for competing theories of visual selective attention. However, the information required to decide upon the correct motor response differs fundamentally across experimental studies, being based, for example, on the presence, spatial location, or identity of the target item. This variability raises the question as to whether estimates of the time taken for (i) focal-attentional selection, (ii) deciding on the motor response, and (iii) response execution generalize across search studies or are specific to the demands of a particular task set. To examine this issue, we presented physically identical stimulus material in four different search task conditions, requiring target localization, detection, discrimination, or compound responses, and combined mental chronometry with two specific electroencephalographic brain responses that are directly linkable to either preattentive or postselective levels of visual processing. Behaviorally, reactions were fastest for localization, slowest for compound responses, and of intermediate speed for detection and discrimination responses. At the electroencephalographic level, this effect of task type manifested in the timing of the stimulus- and response-locked lateralized readiness potential (indexing motor-response decisions), but not posterior contralateral negativity (indexing focal-attentional selection), component. This result demonstrates that only the stage of preattentive visual coding generalizes across task settings, whereas processes that follow focal target selection are dependent on the nature of the task. Consequently, this task set-specific pattern has fundamental implications for all types of experimental paradigms, within and beyond visual search, that require humans to generate motor responses on the basis of external sensory stimulation.


    Item Type: Article
    Keyword(s) / Subject(s): decision making, stimulus–response translation, visual attention
    School: School of Science > Psychological Sciences
    Depositing User: Administrator
    Date Deposited: 09 May 2013 12:38
    Last Modified: 21 Jun 2013 09:57


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