The real dominant eye is the mind’s eye: Internal attention’s dominance over external attention

01 October 2020 → 30 September 2024
Research Foundation - Flanders (FWO)
Research disciplines
  • Social sciences
    • Cognitive processes
    • Motor processes and action
    • Sensory processes and perception
    • Research methods and experimental design
    • Statistics and data analysis
External attention internal attention cognitive flexibility
Project description

The relationship between external and internal attention has become a topic of increasing interest in cognitive neuroscience. However, there is currently only a rudimentary understanding how people regulate the relative balance of these states. Interestingly, Verschooren and colleagues (2019b) found asymmetrical costs for switches between them, suggesting that internal attention is dominant over external attention. This dominance could reflect a general principle dictating that we give priority to our internal states, or reflect specific properties of the paradigm. In the current research project, I plan to establish the domain-generality of this apparent dominance (WP1) and determine whether or not it is inherent (WP2). Furthermore, I will investigate how information is accessed and represented within each state (WP3). This will be achieved by having participants switch between different features of bivalent stimuli, which can reveal how the specificity and shielding of representations differ between internal and external attention. Finally, we will use MVPA of fMRI data to more directly determine whether task-irrelevant features can be shielded against more easily for internal attention (WP4). These findings should be of broad interest to the field, as they are on the cross-section of research in working memory, attention, and long-term memory. Moreover, the proposed framework provides an overarching interpretation for disparate findings in the attention literature.