Top-Down Contributions to Attention Shifting and Disengagement: A Template Model of Visual Attention

Motonori Yamaguchi, Ashvanti Valji, Felicity Wolohan

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Two separate systems are involved in the control of spatial attention; one that is driven by a goal, and the other that is driven by stimuli. While the goal- and stimulus-driven systems follow different general principles, they also interplay with each other. However, the mechanism by which the goal-driven system influences the stimulus-driven system is still debated. The present study examined top-down contributions to two components of attention orienting, shifting and disengagement, with an experimental paradigm in which participants held a visual item in short-term memory and performed a prosaccade task with a manipulation of the gap between fixation offset and target onset. Four experiments showed that the short-term memory content accelerated shifting and impaired disengagement, but the influence on disengagement depended on the utility of short-term memory in guiding attention toward the target. Thus, the use of short-term memory was strategic. Computational models of visual attention were fitted to the experimental data, which suggested that the top-down contributions to shifting was more prominent than those to disengagement. The present study indicates that the current modeling framework was particularly useful when examining the contributions of theoretical constructs for the control of visual attention, but it also suggests limitations.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: General
Early online date19 Feb 2018
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 19 Feb 2018


  • Spatial attention
  • attention capture
  • disengagement
  • memory-guided attention
  • gap task

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