© 2019, The Psychonomic Society, Inc. An abundance of recent empirical data suggest that repeatedly allocating visual attention to task-relevant and/or reward-predicting features in the visual world engenders an attentional bias for these frequently attended stimuli, even when they become task irrelevant and no longer predict reward. In short, attentional selection in the past hinders voluntary control of attention in the present. But do such enduring attentional biases rely on a history of voluntary, goal-directed attentional selection, or can they be generated through involuntary, effortless attentional allocation? An abrupt visual onset triggers such a reflexive allocation of covert spatial attention to its location in the visual field, automatically modulating numerous aspects of visual perception. In this Registered Report, we asked whether a selection history that has been reflexively and involuntarily derived (i.e., through abrupt-onset cueing) also interferes with goal-directed attentional control, even in the complete absence of exogenous cues. To build spatially distinct histories of exogenous selection, we presented abrupt-onset cues twice as often at one of two task locations, and as expected, these cues reflexively modulated visual processing: task accuracy increased, and response times (RTs) decreased, when the cue appeared near the target’s location, relative to that of the distractor. Upon removal of these cues, however, we found no evidence that exogenous selection history modulated task performance: task accuracy and RTs at the previously most-cued and previously least-cued sides were statistically indistinguishable. Thus, unlike voluntarily directed attention, involuntary attentional allocation may not be sufficient to engender historically contingent selection biases.
Psychonomic Bulletin and Review