Endogenous spatial attention during perceptual learning facilitates location transfer

Ian Donovan, Marisa Carrasco

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Covert attention and perceptual learning enhance perceptual performance. The relation between these two mechanisms is largely unknown. Previously, we showed that manipulating involuntary, exogenous spatial attention during training improved performance at trained and untrained locations, thus overcoming the typical location specificity. Notably, attention-induced transfer only occurred for high stimulus contrasts, at the upper asymptote of the psychometric function (i.e., via response gain). Here, we investigated whether and how voluntary, endogenous attention, the top-down and goal-based type of covert visual attention, influences perceptual learning. Twenty-six participants trained in an orientation discrimination task at two locations: half of participants received valid endogenous spatial precues (attention group), while the other half received neutral precues (neutral group). Before and after training, all participants were tested with neutral precues at two trained and two untrained locations. Within each session, stimulus contrast varied on a trial basis from very low (2%) to very high (64%). Performance was fit by a Weibull psychometric function separately for each day and location. Performance improved for both groups at the trained location, and unlike training with exogenous attention, at the threshold level (i.e., via contrast gain). The neutral group exhibited location specificity: Thresholds decreased at the trained locations, but not at the untrained locations. In contrast, participants in the attention group showed significant location transfer: Thresholds decreased to the same extent at both trained and untrained locations. These results indicate that, similar to exogenous spatial attention, endogenous spatial attention induces location transfer, but influences contrast gain instead of response gain.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-16
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of vision
Issue number11
StatePublished - Oct 1 2018


  • Endogenous attention
  • Location specificity
  • Orientation discrimination
  • Perceptual learning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ophthalmology
  • Sensory Systems


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