Attention and spatial selection: Electrophysiological evidence for modulation by perceptual load

Todd C. Handy, George R Mangun

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

145 Scopus citations


Behavioral data have suggested that perceptual load can modulate spatial selection by influencing the allocation of attentional resources at perceptual-level processing stages (Lavie & Tsal, 1994). To directly test this hypothesis, event-related potentials (ERPs) were recorded for both low-and high-perceptual-load targets in a probabilistic spatial cuing paradigm. The results from three experiments showed that, as measured by the lateral occipital P1 and N1 ERP components, the magnitude of spatially selective processing in extrastriate visual cortex increased with perceptual load. Furthermore, these effects on spatial selection were found in the P1 at lower levels of perceptual load than in the N1. The ERP data thus provide direct electrophysiological support for proposals that link perceptual load to early spatial selection in visual processing. However, our findings suggest a relatively broader model - where perceptual load is but one of many factors mediating early selection.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)175-186
Number of pages12
JournalPerception and Psychophysics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2000
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology


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