Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Psychology



First Advisor

Charles Collyer


Covert visual attention has been studied at several levels of observation and from several perspectives. Literature on covert attention, visual system information processing, and controlled and automatic information processing is reviewed and related to issues of attention, distraction and distractibility. A psychophysical experiment is described, in which speeded button press response was required to identify one of two target letters in a briefly presented four letter array. Cuing blinks appeared on the right or left side immediately prior to the array; depending on the experimental condition, subjects were informed that the blink (a) indicate d the side on which the target letter would appear, (b) indicated the opposite side, or (c) was random and uninformative of target position. Results of analysis of variance and Attention Operating Characteristic (AOC) analysis are presented on the performance of 22 university undergraduate subjects. Cuing blinks appeared to "pull" attention automatically even when known to be uninformative; moreover, the voluntary use of blinks (during informative cue conditions) resulted in slower reaction times, consistent with a controlled processing account. The covert attention effect is discussed with respect to distraction and individual differences, and comments are made on Shaw's (1980) argument that much of what has been regarded as attentional sensitivity may actually be the results of strategies and judgement criteria.



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