Cogn Res Princ Implic. 2022 Jun 17;7(1):50. doi: 10.1186/s41235-022-00404-7.
Statistical knowledge of a target’s location may benefit visual search, and rapidly understanding the changes in regularity would increase the adaptability in visual search situations where fast and accurate performance is required. The current study tested the sources of statistical knowledge-explicitly-given instruction or experience-driven learning-and whether they affect the speed and location spatial attention is guided. Participants performed a visual search task with a statistical regularity to bias one quadrant (“old-rich” condition) in the training phase, followed by another quadrant (“new-rich” condition) in the switching phase. The “instruction” group was explicitly instructed on the regularity, whereas the “no-instruction” group was not. It was expected that the instruction group would rely on goal-driven attention (using regularities with explicit top-down knowledge), and the no-instruction group would rely on habit-like attention (learning regularities through repetitive experiences) in visual search. Compared with the no-instruction group, the instruction group readjusted spatial attention following the regularity switch more rapidly. The instruction group showed greater attentional bias toward the new-rich quadrant than the old-rich quadrant; however, the no-instruction group showed a similar extent of attentional bias to two rich quadrants. The current study suggests that the source of statistical knowledge can affect attentional allocation. Moreover, habit-like attention, a different type of attentional source than goal-driven attention, is relatively implicit and inflexible.