An image-computable model of how endogenous and exogenous attention differentially alter visual perception

Michael Jigo, David J. Heeger, Marisa Carrasco

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Attention alters perception across the visual field. Typically, endogenous (voluntary) and exogenous (involuntary) attention similarly improve performance in many visual tasks, but they have differential effects in some tasks. Extant models of visual attention assume that the effects of these two types of attention are identical and consequently do not explain differences between them. Here, we develop a model of spatial resolution and attention that distinguishes between endogenous and exogenous attention. We focus on texture-based segmentation as a model system because it has revealed a clear dissociation between both attention types. For a texture for which performance peaks at parafoveal locations, endogenous attention improves performance across eccentricity, whereas exogenous attention improves performance where the resolution is low (peripheral locations) but impairs it where the resolution is high (foveal locations) for the scale of the texture. Our model emulates sensory encoding to segment figures from their background and predict behavioral performance. To explain attentional effects, endogenous and exogenous attention require separate operating regimes across visual detail (spatial frequency). Our model reproduces behavioral performance across several experiments and simultaneously resolves three unexplained phenomena: 1) the parafoveal advantage in segmentation, 2) the uniform improvements across eccentricity by endogenous attention, and 3) the peripheral improvements and foveal impairments by exogenous attention. Overall, we unveil a computational dissociation between each attention type and provide a generalizable framework for predicting their effects on perception across the visual field.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2106436118
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number33
StatePublished - Aug 17 2021


  • Computational model
  • Endogenous attention
  • Exogenous attention
  • Spatial resolution
  • Texture

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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