Attention Modifies Spatial Resolution According to Task Demands

Antoine Barbot, Marisa Carrasco

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


How does visual attention affect spatial resolution? In texture-segmentation tasks, exogenous (involuntary) attention automatically increases resolution at the attended location, which improves performance where resolution is too low (at the periphery) but impairs performance where resolution is already too high (at central locations). Conversely, endogenous (voluntary) attention improves performance at all eccentricities, which suggests a more flexible mechanism. Here, using selective adaptation to spatial frequency, we investigated the mechanism by which endogenous attention benefits performance in resolution tasks. Participants detected a texture target that could appear at several eccentricities. Adapting to high or low spatial frequencies selectively affected performance in a manner consistent with changes in resolution. Moreover, adapting to high, but not low, frequencies mitigated the attentional benefit at central locations where resolution was too high; this shows that attention can improve performance by decreasing resolution. Altogether, our results indicate that endogenous attention benefits performance by modulating the contribution of high-frequency information in order to flexibly adjust spatial resolution according to task demands.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)285-296
Number of pages12
JournalPsychological Science
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2017


  • adaptation
  • attention
  • spatial frequency
  • spatial resolution
  • texture segmentation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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