We tested whether implicit learning causes shifts of spatial attention in advance of or in response to stimulus onset. Participants completed randomly interspersed trials of letter search, which involved reporting the orientation of a T among Ls, and scene search, which involved identifying which of four scenes was from a target category (e.g., forest). In Experiment 1, an initial phase more often contained target letters in one screen quadrant, while the target scenes appeared equally often in all quadrants. Participants persistently prioritized letter targets in the more probable region, but the implicitly learned preference did not affect the unbiased scene task. In Experiment 2, the spatial probabilities of the scene and letter tasks reversed. Participants unaware of the probability manipulation acquired only a spatial bias to scene targets in the more probable region, with no effect on letter search. Instead of recruiting baseline shifts of spatial attention prior to stimulus onset, implicit learning of target probability yields task-dependent shifts of spatial attention following stimulus onset. Such shifts may involve attentional behaviors unique to certain task contexts.
- Baseline shifts of attentional resources
- Implicit attention
- Location probability learning
- Spatial attention