Guidance of spatial attention by incidental learning and endogenous cuing

Yuhong V Jiang, Khena M. Swallow, Gail M. Rosenbaum

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

94 Scopus citations


Our visual system is highly sensitive to regularities in the environment. Locations that were important in one's previous experience are often prioritized during search, even though observers may not be aware of the learning. In this study we characterized the guidance of spatial attention by incidental learning of a target's spatial probability, and examined the interaction between endogenous cuing and probability cuing. Participants searched for a target (T) among distractors (Ls). The target was more often located in one region of the screen than in others. We found that search reaction time (RT) was faster when the target appeared in the high-frequency region rather than the low-frequency regions. This difference increased when there were more items on the display, suggesting that probability cuing guides spatial attention. Additional data indicated that on their own, probability cuing and endogenous cuing (e.g., a central arrow that predicted a target's location) were similarly effective at guiding attention. However, when both cues were presented at once, probability cuing was largely eliminated. Thus, although both incidental learning and endogenous cuing can effectively guide attention, endogenous cuing takes precedence over incidental learning.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)285-297
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Endogenous attention
  • Incidental learning
  • Spatial attention
  • Visual search


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