Do peripheral non-informative cues induce early facilitation of target detection?

G. Tassinari, S. Aglioti, L. Chelazzi, A. Peru, G. Berlucchi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


It has been reported that ample reaction time (RT) to a peripheral visual target is faster if the target is presented within about 200 msec from the onset of a non-informative cue flashed at the same location, as compared with RT to a target presented at an uncued location. This period of facilitation is followed by a period of inhibition during which RT is longer if cue and target are shown at the same location or at different locations within the same hemifield, as opposed to contralateral cues and targets. Early facilitation has been explained by an automatic covert orienting towards the cue, while the following inhibition has been regarded as a consequence of such covert orienting. In a series of four experiments, we have investigated the dependency of these effects on the temporal and spatial relationships between cue and target. Normal, right-handed subjects responded to a target displayed for 16 msec simultaneously with, or following at stimulus-onset asynchronies (SOAs) of 60,130, 300 or 900 msec, the onset of a non-informative cue. Both cues and targets could appear at random in one of four locations (Expts 1-3) or in one of two locations (Expt 4) disposed symmetrically across the fixation point along the horizontal meridian. Duration of the cue varied between experiments. In Expt 1 it was 16 msec. In Expt 2 the cue remained on view throughout the period of the SOA and terminated 300 msec after target onset. In the remaining two experiments cue duration was 130 msec. In the first experiment, at all cue-target SOAs RTs to targets flashed either at the same location or in the same hemifield as the cue were significantly slower than RTs to contralateral cue-target combinations (RT inhibition). In the other experiments, there was no RT inhibition with targets in cued locations if the cue remained on during target presentation and outlasted target offset. Since at no SOA was RT to targets in cued locations shorter than RT to targets contralateral to cues, there was no direct evidence for facilitation. However, the facilitatory influence of these cues could be inferred from the fact that they countered and masked inhibition. RT to uncued targets ipsilateral to cues was consistently inhibited in all experimental conditions. These results show that at each cue-target SOA the consequences of a peripheral non-informative cue depend on whether or not the cue remains visible during target processing. Further, our findings suggest that facilitation of RT to targets in cued positions, if any, does not precede and cause inhibition, but co-occurs with it.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)179-189
Number of pages11
JournalVision Research
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1994


  • Reaction-time Detection Covert orienting Early facilitation Inhibition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ophthalmology
  • Sensory Systems


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