In search of exogenous feature-based attention

Ian Donovan, Ying Joey Zhou, Marisa Carrasco

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Visual attention prioritizes the processing of sensory information at specific spatial locations (spatial attention; SA) or with specific feature values (feature-based attention; FBA). SA is well characterized in terms of behavior, brain activity, and temporal dynamics—for both top-down (endogenous) and bottom-up (exogenous) spatial orienting. FBA has been thoroughly studied in terms of top-down endogenous orienting, but much less is known about the potential of bottom-up exogenous influences of FBA. Here, in four experiments, we adapted a procedure used in two previous studies that reported exogenous FBA effects, with the goal of replicating and expanding on these findings, especially regarding its temporal dynamics. Unlike the two previous studies, we did not find significant effects of exogenous FBA. This was true (1) whether accuracy or RT was prioritized as the main measure, (2) with precues presented peripherally or centrally, (3) with cue-to-stimulus ISIs of varying durations, (4) with four or eight possible target locations, (5) at different meridians, (6) with either brief or long stimulus presentations, (7) and with either fixation contingent or noncontingent stimulus displays. In the last experiment, a postexperiment participant questionnaire indicated that only a small subset of participants, who mistakenly believed the irrelevant color of the precue indicated which stimulus was the target, exhibited benefits for valid exogenous FBA precues. Overall, we conclude that with the protocol used in the studies reporting exogenous FBA, the exogenous stimulus-driven influence of FBA is elusive at best, and that FBA is primarily a top-down, goal-driven process.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)312-329
Number of pages18
JournalAttention, Perception, and Psychophysics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2020


  • Attention: Selective
  • Precuing
  • Visual perception

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Sensory Systems
  • Linguistics and Language


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