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Pre-stimulus pupil dilation and the preparatory control of attention.

07:00 EST 8th December 2017 | BioPortfolio

Summary of "Pre-stimulus pupil dilation and the preparatory control of attention."

Task preparation involves multiple component processes, including a general evaluative process that signals the need for adjustments in control, and the engagement of task-specific control settings. Here we examined the dynamics of these different mechanisms in preparing the attentional control system for visual search. We explored preparatory activity using pupil dilation, a well-established measure of task demands and effortful processing. In an initial exploratory experiment, participants were cued at the start of each trial to search for either a salient color singleton target (an easy search task) or a low-salience shape singleton target (a difficult search task). Pupil dilation was measured during the preparation period from cue onset to search display onset. Mean dilation was larger in preparation for the difficult shape target than the easy color target. In two additional experiments, we sought to vary effects of evaluative processing and task-specific preparation separately. Experiment 2 showed that when the color and shape search tasks were matched for difficulty, the shape target no longer evoked larger dilations, and the pattern of results was in fact reversed. In Experiment 3, we manipulated difficulty within a single feature dimension, and found that the difficult search task evoked larger dilations. These results suggest that pupil dilation reflects expectations of difficulty in preparation for a search task, consistent with the activity of an evaluative mechanism. We did not find consistent evidence for relationship between pupil dilation and search performance (accuracy and response timing), suggesting that pupil dilation during search preparation may not be strongly linked to ongoing task-specific preparation.

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This article was published in the following journal.

Name: PloS one
ISSN: 1932-6203
Pages: e0188787

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