Abstract by Pedro Sztybel
Spatial symbols can direct attention to a specific location in space only when they are capable of specifying both direction and distance. Interestingly, the spatial symbols used in most previous spatial cueing studies only convey information about direction. In a recent study, we presented observers with symbolic cues that conveyed information about both the direction and the distance of an upcoming target within the context of the spatial cueing paradigm. Results showed that observers have greater expertise using direction symbols than distance symbols to guide attention. However, these findings were limited to voluntary shifts of attention. The present study sought further evidence in favor of direction expertise by examining the extent to which symbolic information about direction and distance are characterized by automatic attentional processing. As expected, results showed that direction symbols produced a larger automatic response than distance symbols. These results are important because they provide support for the direction expertise hypothesis and extend current semantic-based theories of symbolic control.