A New Component of Visual Orienting: Implicit Effects of Peripheral Information and Subthreshold Cues on Covert Attention

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Four experiments examined effects of peripheral cue stimuli on covert spatial attention. In Experiment 1 target stimuli were preceded by a pair of bilaterally presented cue letters. The relative location of the cues predicted target location (left or right), but participants were not informed of this. After a brief practice period, visual orienting was influenced by the letter cues. This implicit peripheral cuing effect was unrelated to participants' awareness of the cue–target relationship. Experiments 2 and 3 showed that visual orienting may occur independently of both perceptual awareness of the peripheral cue event itself and contingency awareness concerning the cue–target relation. Experiment 4 demonstrated that implicit peripheral cuing is qualitatively distinct from voluntary orienting. These findings are discussed in relation to work on spatial attention, implicit learning, and perception without awareness.

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