The yellow light: Predictability enhances background processing during behaviorally relevant events

Caitlin Sisk, Yuhong V. Jiang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


The attentional boost effect refers to the observation that when simultaneously performing a scene memory task and a target detection task, participants better remember scenes that appear at the same time as the detection target than scenes that coincide with distractors. The attentional boost effect is thought to result from a transient increase in attention during an acute behaviorally relevant event, resulting from a temporal orienting response. But can endogenous orienting to predictable targets trigger this response in the same manner as exogenous orienting to unpredictable targets? Until now, the attentional boost effect has only been tested under conditions in which the target's appearance was unpredictable. Because of the distinction between exogenous and endogenous orienting, target predictability could attenuate the attentional boost effect, or it could increase temporal orienting efficiency and enhance the effect. To test the attentional boost effect under predictable conditions, participants memorized scenes while responding to a target digit, 0, among a stream of digits appearing in the center of those scenes. In some blocks, the 0 predictably followed the digit sequence 3-2-1. In these predictable blocks, participants showed a robust attentional boost effect. This shows that both endogenous orienting to temporally predictable targets and exogenous orienting to unpredictable targets enhance concurrent task processing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1645-1658
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Learning Memory and Cognition
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Caitlin A. Sisk was supported in part by the National Science Foundation’s Research Traineeship Program and the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowships Program. We thank Hunter Schouviller, Julie Jia, and Harlequin Mao for help with data collection.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 American Psychological Association.


  • Attentional boost effect
  • Dual-task processing
  • Expectation
  • Predictability
  • Temporal attention

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article


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