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Cattaneo, Luigi; Hanning, Nina Maria ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-3640-1151; Wollenberg, Luca ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-3874-7949; Jonikaitis, Donatas and Deubel, Heiner (2022): Eye and hand movements disrupt attentional control.
In: PLOS ONE 17(1), e0262567 [PDF, 1MB]


Voluntary attentional control is the ability to selectively focus on a subset of visual information in the presence of other competing stimuli–a marker of cognitive control enabling flexible, goal-driven behavior. To test its robustness, we contrasted attentional control with the most common source of attentional orienting in daily life: attention shifts prior to goal-directed eye and hand movements. In a multi-tasking paradigm, human participants attended at a location while planning eye or hand movements elsewhere. Voluntary attentional control suffered with every simultaneous action plan, even under reduced task difficulty and memory load–factors known to interfere with attentional control. Furthermore, the performance cost was limited to voluntary attention: We observed simultaneous attention benefits at two movement targets without attentional competition between them. This demonstrates that the visual system allows for the concurrent representation of multiple attentional foci. Since attentional control is extremely fragile and dominated by premotor attention shifts, we propose that action-driven selection plays the superordinate role for visual selection.

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