Modality-specificity of Selective Attention Networks

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Stewart, Hannah J. ; Amitay, Sygal (2015)

Objective: To establish the modality specificity and generality of selective attention networks. Method: Forty-eight young adults completed a battery of four auditory and visual selective attention tests based upon the Attention Network framework: the visual and auditory Attention Network Tests (vANT, aANT), the Test of Everyday Attention (TEA), and the Test of Attention in Listening (TAiL). These provided independent measures for auditory and visual alerting, orienting, and conflict resolution networks. The measures were subjected to an exploratory factor analysis to assess underlying attention constructs. Results: The analysis yielded a four-component solution. The first component comprised of a range of measures from the TEA and was labeled ‘general attention’. The third component was labeled ‘auditory attention’, as it only contained measures from the TAiL using pitch as the attended stimulus feature. The second and fourth components were labeled as ‘spatial orienting’ and ‘spatial conflict’, respectively – they were comprised of orienting and conflict resolution measures from the vANT, aANT and TAiL attend-location task – all tasks based upon spatial judgments (e.g., the direction of a target arrow or sound location). Conclusions: These results do not support our a-priori hypothesis that attention networks are either modality specific or supramodal. Auditory attention separated into selectively attending to spatial and non-spatial features, with the auditory spatial attention loading onto the same factor as visual spatial attention, suggesting spatial attention is supramodal. However, since our study did not include a non-spatial measure of visual attention, further research will be required to ascertain whether non-spatial attention is modality-specific.
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