Is goal-directed attentional guidance just intertrial priming? A review.

Dominique F. Lamy*, Arni Kristjánsson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

76 Citations (Scopus)


According to most models of selective visual attention, our goals at any given moment and saliency in the visual field determine attentional priority. But selection is not carried out in isolation--we typically track objects through space and time. This is not well captured within the distinction between goal-directed and saliency-based attentional guidance. Recent studies have shown that selection is strongly facilitated when the characteristics of the objects to be attended and of those to be ignored remain constant between consecutive selections. These studies have generated the proposal that goal-directed or top-down effects are best understood as intertrial priming effects. Here, we provide a detailed overview and critical appraisal of the arguments, experimental strategies, and findings that have been used to promote this idea, along with a review of studies providing potential counterarguments. We divide this review according to different types of attentional control settings that observers are thought to adopt during visual search: feature-based settings, dimension-based settings, and singleton detection mode. We conclude that priming accounts for considerable portions of effects attributed to top-down guidance, but that top-down guidance can be independent of intertrial priming.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)14
Number of pages1
JournalJournal of Vision
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2013


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