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Anatomical Constraints on Attention: Hemifield Independence is a Signature of Multifocal Spatial Selection

Previous studies have shown independent attentional selection of targets in the left and right visual hemifields during attentional tracking (Alvarez & Cavanagh, 2005) but not during a visual search (Luck, Hillyard, Mangun, & Gazzaniga, 1989). Here we tested whether multifocal spatial attention is the critical process that operates independently in the two hemifields. It is explicitly required in tracking (attend to a subset of object locations, suppress the others) but not in the standard visual search task (where all items are potential targets). We used a modified visual search task in which observers searched for a target within a subset of display items, where the subset was selected based on location (Experiments 1 and 3A) or based on a salient feature difference (Experiments 2 and 3B). The results show hemifield independence in this subset visual search task with location-based selection but not with feature-based selection; this effect cannot be explained by general difficulty (Experiment 4). Combined, these findings suggest that hemifield independence is a signature of multifocal spatial attention and highlight the need for cognitive and neural theories of attention to account for anatomical constraints on selection mechanisms. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)



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