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The last few years have seen a rapid growth of interest in the use of verbal information displays in many applied interface settings. However, to date, it is unclear what effect the presentation of verbal cues, such as the words 'left' or 'right', has on the spatial distribution of an interface operator's attention. In the present study, we addressed this issue by investigating whether centrally-presented spatially-nonpredictive verbal directional cues elicit an automatic shift of visual spatial attention in the direction indicated by the cue. Participants performed a digit discrimination task for targets presented on either the left or right. Prior to target presentation, the directional word cues 'left' or 'right' were presented auditorily or visually from the centre of the display at cue-target stimulus onset asynchronies (SOAs) of 200, 400, or 600 ms. Visual discrimination performance was assessed both under conditions where the target digits were unmasked (auditory and visual cuing), and when the targets were masked (auditory cuing only). The results showed that unmasked visual target discrimination performance was facilitated on the cued (relative to the uncued) side at the shortest SOA following visual cuing, but was unaffected by auditorily-presented directional cues. Interestingly, our results also indicated improved visual sensitivity on the auditorily-cued side in the masked target condition. These findings are discussed in relation to previous laboratory-based and applied symbolic cuing studies that have investigated the consequences of the presentation of arrow, gaze direction, and/or head orientation directional cues on the spatial distribution of attention. © 2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Original publication




Journal article


Computers in Human Behavior

Publication Date





733 - 748