Attentional load and attentional boost: A review of data and theory

Khena M. Swallow, Yuhong V. Jiang

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

    62 Scopus citations


    Both perceptual and cognitive processes are limited in capacity. As a result, attention is selective, prioritizing items and tasks that are important for adaptive behavior. However, a number of recent behavioral and neuroimaging studies suggest that, at least under some circumstances, increasing attention to one task can enhance performance in a second task (e.g., the attentional boost effect). Here we review these findings and suggest a new theoretical framework, the dual-task interaction model, that integrates these findings with current views of attentional selection. To reconcile the attentional boost effect with the effects of attentional load, we suggest that temporal selection results in a temporally specific enhancement across modalities, tasks, and spatial locations. Moreover, the effects of temporal selection may be best observed when the attentional system is optimally tuned to the temporal dynamics of incoming stimuli. Several avenues of research motivated by the dual-task interaction model are then discussed.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Article numberArtical 274
    JournalFrontiers in Psychology
    Issue numberMAY
    StatePublished - 2013


    • Attention
    • Attentional boost effect
    • Dual-task interference
    • Load theory
    • Temporal selection


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