Explicit goal-driven attention, unlike implicitly learned attention, spreads to secondary tasks

Douglas A. Addleman, Jinyi Tao, Roger W. Remington, Yuhong V Jiang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


To what degree does spatial attention for one task spread to all stimuli in the attended region, regardless of task relevance? Most models imply that spatial attention acts through a unitary priority map in a task-general manner. We show that implicit learning, unlike endogenous spatial cuing, can bias spatial attention within one task without biasing attention to a spatially overlapping secondary task. Participants completed a visual search task superimposed on a background containing scenes, which they were told to encode for a later memory task. Experiments 1 and 2 used explicit instructions to bias spatial attention to one region for visual search; Experiment 3 used location probability cuing to implicitly bias spatial attention. In location probability cuing, a target appeared in one region more than others despite participants not being told of this. In all experiments, search performance was better in the cued region than in uncued regions. However, scene memory was better in the cued region only following endogenous guidance, not after implicit biasing of attention. These data support a dual-system view of top-down attention that dissociates goal-driven and implicitly learned attention. Goal-driven attention is task general, amplifying processing of a cued region across tasks, whereas implicit statistical learning is task-specific.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)356-366
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Research reported in this publication was supported in part by NIH R03 MH102586. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health. Thanks to Geoff Woodman and Nikita Salovich for comments and to Catherine Ogilvy and Emily Twedell for assistance with data collection.


  • Goal-driven attention
  • Incidental learning
  • Probability cuing
  • Spatial attention


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