Laboratoire Psychologie de la Perception Institut Neurosciences Cognition Université Paris Descartes Centre National de Recherche Scientifique
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Retrospective Attention Gates Discrete Conscious Access to Past Sensory Stimuli

Cueing attention after the disappearance of visual stimuli biases which items will be remembered best. This observation has historically been attributed to the influence of attention on memory as opposed to subjective visual experience. We recently challenged this view by showing that cueing attention after the stimulus can improve the perception of a single Gabor patch at threshold levels of contrast. Here, we test whether this retro-perception actually increases the frequency of consciously perceiving the stimulus, or simply allows for a more precise recall of its features. We used retro-cues in an orientation-matching task and performed mixture-model analysis to independently estimate the proportion of guesses and the precision of non-guess responses. We find that the improvements in performance conferred by retrospective attention are overwhelmingly determined by a reduction in the proportion of guesses, providing strong evidence that attracting attention to the targetís location after its disappearance increases the likelihood of perceiving it consciously.