Previous research has shown semantic influence from irrelevant peripheral cues on the spatial allocation of covert visual attention. The present study explored whether the task set determines the extent of such semantic influence. A spatial cueing paradigm with strict eye movement control was used, where cues were either first names (male or female) or emotionally charged words (positive or negative) followed by a face target. Participants discriminated either the gender (male or female) or the emotion (positive or negative) of the face. When there was high information overlap between cue and task set, responses were faster when the cue and target value were semantically congruent than when they were incongruent. It was concluded that the semantically related cues primed a task-influencing response independently of spatial attention allocation processes, showing that semantic influences from brief peripheral cues depend on the degree of information overlap between cue and task set.
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