Habitual versus goal-driven attention

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35 Scopus citations


Recent research has expanded the list of factors that control spatial attention. Beside current goals and perceptual salience, statistical learning, reward, motivation and emotion also affect attention. But do these various factors influence spatial attention in the same manner, as suggested by the integrated framework of attention, or do they target different aspects of spatial attention? Here I present evidence that the control of attention may be implemented in two ways. Whereas current goals typically modulate where in space attention is prioritized, search habits affect how one moves attention in space. Using the location probability learning paradigm, I show that a search habit forms when people frequently find a visual search target in one region of space. Attentional cuing by probability learning differs from that by current goals. Probability cuing is implicit and persists long after the probability cue is no longer valid. Whereas explicit goal-driven attention codes space in an environment-centered reference frame, probability cuing is viewer-centered and is insensitive to secondary working memory load and aging. I propose a multi-level framework that separates the source of attentional control from its implementation. Similar to the integrated framework, the multi-level framework considers current goals, perceptual salience, and selection history as major sources of attentional control. However, these factors are implemented in two ways, controlling where spatial attention is allocated and how one shifts attention in space.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)107-120
Number of pages14
StatePublished - May 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Research reviewed in this article was funded in part by NIH R03 MH102586 and an Engdahl family research fund . The content is solely the responsibility of the author and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health. I thank Leo Chelazzi, Roger Remington, Sha Li, Doug Addleman, Abby Barthel, Emily Twedell, and Nikita Salovich for suggestions and discussions. Correspondence should be directed to Yuhong Jiang, 75 East River Road, S504 Elliott Hall, Minneapolis, MN 55455. Email: jiang166@umn.edu .


  • Implicit learning
  • Search habit
  • Spatial attention
  • Spatial reference frame

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