How attention affects spatial resolution

Marisa Carrasco, Antoine Barbot

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We summarize and discuss a series of psychophysical studies on the effects of spatial covert attention on spatial resolution, our ability to discriminate fine patterns. Heightened resolution is beneficial in most, but not all, visual tasks. We show how endogenous attention (voluntary, goal driven) and exogenous attention (involuntary, stimulus driven) affect performance on a variety of tasks mediated by spatial resolution, such as visual search, crowding, acuity, and texture segmentation. Exogenous attention is an automatic mechanism that increases resolution regardless of whether it helps or hinders performance. In contrast, endogenous attention flexibly adjusts resolution to optimize performance according to task demands. We illustrate how psychophysical studies can reveal the underlying mechanisms of these effects and allow us to draw linking hypotheses with known neurophysiological effects of attention.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)149-160
Number of pages12
JournalCold Spring Harbor symposia on quantitative biology
StatePublished - 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics


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