Voluntary and involuntary attention vary as a function of impulsivity

Ayelet N. Landau, Deena Elwan, Sarah Holtz, William Prinzmetal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


In the present study we examined, first, whether voluntary and involuntary attention manifest differently in people who differ in impulsivity (measured with the Barratt Impulsivity Scale). For Experiment 1, we used the spatial cueing task with informative and noninformative spatial cues to probe voluntary and involuntary attention, respectively. We found that participants with high impulsivity scores exhibited larger involuntary attention effects, whereas participants with low impulsivity scores exhibited larger voluntary attention effects. For Experiment 2, we used the correlated-flanker task to determine whether the differences between groups in Experiment 1 were due to high-impulsive participants being less sensitive to the display contingencies or to high-impulsive participants having a greater spread of spatial attention. Surprisingly, high-impulsive participants showed a greater sensitivity to contingencies in the environment (correlated-flanker effect). Our results illustrate one situation in which involuntary attention associated with high impulsivity can play a useful role.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)405-411
Number of pages7
JournalPsychonomic Bulletin and Review
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Impulsivity
  • Individual differences
  • Involuntary attention
  • Spatial attention
  • Voluntary attention


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