Accentuation-suppression and scaling: arousal modulation of attentional processing

Thomas Alrik Sørensen, Claus Bundesen

Research output: Contribution to journalConference abstract in journalResearchpeer-review


The limitations of the visual short-term memory (VSTM) system have become an increasingly popular field of study. One line of inquiry has focused on the way attention selects objects for encoding into VSTM. Using the framework of the Theory of Visual Attention (TVA; Bundesen, 1990 Psychological Review 97 523–547) different components of attention were measured while arousal was systematically varied by manipulating temporal expectancies of the observer. The results showed increments in both overall speed of encoding into VSTM and efficiency of visual selection as the level of arousal was increased, whereas VSTM capacity showed some decrease with increasing arousal. Furthermore, attentional weights seemed to be modulated such that, as arousal increased, the attentional focus narrowed around fewer, highly relevant objects. Arousal seems to interact with attention in two different ways: Through a scaling mechanism modulating the decision bias of the observer and also through an accentuation-suppression mechanism that modulates the degree of subjective relevance of objects, contracting attention around fewer, highly relevant objects while suppressing less relevant objects. These mechanisms may afford an evolutionary advantage for an observer, ensuring that the most relevant objects are selected and encoded faster under high arousal, and making later processing more focused as the capacity of VSTM is decreased.
Original languageEnglish
Issue numberSuppl.
Pages (from-to)40
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 2012
EventEuropean Conference on Visual Perception - Conference Centre of the Carlos V Hotel, Lungomare Valencia, 24, Alghero, Italy
Duration: 2 Sep 20126 Sep 2012
Conference number: 35


ConferenceEuropean Conference on Visual Perception
LocationConference Centre of the Carlos V Hotel, Lungomare Valencia, 24

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