Is attention allocation sensitive to word informativeness?

David Navon, Michal Sukenik, Joel Norman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


When two words are presented simultaneously, where one of them is predictable from the context and the other one is not, it is conceivable that attention is captured by the expected word (cf. Flowers, Polansky, & Kerl, 1981), or that attention is directed to where it is presumably more needed, namely to the unexpected word. To explore these possibilities we used a paradigm in which the subjects' primary task was to report either one or both of two simultaneously presented words, and attention was measured by performance on a secondary task, that is, detecting small gaps in a letter stroke. In a preliminary test, this measure of attention was found to be sensitive to the manipulation of attention by means of an arrow pointer. Word predictability was manipulated by presenting an incomplete sentence immediately before the two words. The sentence was either semantically congruent with one of the words or with neither of them. The mode of word report (partial vs. full) was manipulated between subjects. No difference was found in either mode between the gap detection scores in the expected and the unexpected words. Neither of those scores differed from the score for trials in which both words were unexpected. The results suggest that at the time of selection, or attention allocation, cues about word identity are not yet available, or are not utilized.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)131-137
Number of pages7
JournalPsychological Research
Issue number2-3
StatePublished - Aug 1987

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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