A Taxonomy of Attention 77 Annu Rev Psychol 20116273 101 Downloaded from

A taxonomy of attention 77 annu rev psychol 20116273

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A Taxonomy of Attention 77 Annu. Rev. Psychol. 2011.62:73-101. Downloaded from Access provided by Columbia University on 08/25/15. For personal use only.
and separate. The taxonomy simply reflects the fact that relevant studies can be grouped around a certain set of issues and questions, such that paper citations would be clustered. The goal is not to strictly segregate the different topics of attention, but rather to organize them better so that connections between areas of study will become more clear. External Attention External attention to the perceptual world can be subdivided according to the focus of atten- tion. First, attention can be directed to one or several modalities, separable from each other during initial neural processing. Second, in- dependent of modality, attention is deployed over space and over time, with separate issues to consider for spatial versus temporal atten- tion. In addition, attention can be allocated over space, time, and modality according to stim- ulus features or how they are organized into objects. These dimensions are not exclusive of each other, but they represent useful ways to organize the mechanisms of attention, and they represent lines along which studies have been conducted. Modality. Sensory processing is initially sep- arate for the five modalities of vision, hearing, touch, smell, and taste. Attention serves to select and modulate processing within each of the five modalities, and it directly impacts pro- cessing within relevant sensory cortical regions. Although the bulk of research reviewed and categorized in this taxonomy stems from the visual attention literature, these findings gener- alize well to the other modalities. For example, attention to visual stimuli enhances discrimina- tion and activates relevant topographic areas in retinotopic visual cortex (Tootell et al. 1998), allowing observers to detect stimuli at lower contrast or to make finer discrimination. Atten- tion to sounds enhances processing in auditory cortex (Woldorff et al. 1993), allowing listeners to detect fainter sounds or to discriminate finer pitch differences. Similar effects of attention operate in somatosensory cortex, olfactory cortex, and gustatory cortex ( Johansen-Berg & Lloyd 2000, Veldhuizen et al. 2007, Wager et al. 2004, Zelano et al. 2005). One goal of research is to clarify how independent these systems are and how they interact. These different systems appear to operate separately with independent capacity— an inference that can be made by showing that multiple signals coming from the same modality interfere more with each other than do signals coming in from across different modalities (Arnell & Jolicoeur 1999, Duncan et al. 1997, Potter et al. 1998). Interference between modalities appears to occur at a more central stage of processing.

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