Cue contrast modulates the effects of exogenous attention on appearance

Stuart Fuller, Yunsoo Park, Marisa Carrasco

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Exogenous spatial attention can be automatically engaged by a cue presented in the visual periphery. To investigate the effects of exogenous attention, previous studies have generally used highly salient cues that reliably trigger attention. However, the cueing threshold of exogenous attention has been unexamined. We investigated whether the attentional effect varies with cue salience. We examined the magnitude of the attentional effect on apparent contrast [Carrasco, M., Ling, S., & Read, S. (2004). Attention alters appearance. Nature Neuroscience, 7(3), 308-313.] elicited by cues with negative Weber contrast between 6% and 100%. Cue contrast modulated the attentional effect, even at cue contrasts above the level at which observers can perfectly localize the cue; hence, the result is not due to an increase in cue visibility. No attentional effect is observed when the 100% contrast cue is presented after the stimuli, ruling out cue bias or sensory interaction between cues and stimuli as alternative explanations. A second experiment, using the same paradigm with high contrast motion stimuli gave similar results, providing further evidence against a sensory interaction explanation, as the stimuli and task were defined on a visual dimension independent from cue contrast. Although exogenous attention is triggered automatically and involuntarily, the attentional effect is gradual.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1825-1837
Number of pages13
JournalVision research
Issue number14
StatePublished - Jul 2009


  • Appearance
  • Attention
  • Cue salience
  • Exogenous cue
  • Perceived contrast
  • Perceived speed
  • Threshold

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ophthalmology
  • Sensory Systems


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