No evidence for an attentional bias towards implicit temporal regularities

Atser Damsma*, Niels Taatgen, Ritske de Jong, Hedderik van Rijn

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
90 Downloads (Pure)


Action and perception are optimized by exploiting temporal regularities, and it has been suggested that the attentional system prioritizes information that contains some form of structure. Indeed, Zhao, Al-Aidroos, and Turk-Browne (Psychological Science, 24(5), 667-677, 2013) found that attention was biased towards the location and low-level visual features of shapes that appeared with a regular order but were irrelevant for the main search task. Here, we investigate whether this bias also holds for irrelevant metrical temporal regularities. In six experiments, participants were asked to perform search tasks. In Experiments 1a-d, sequences of squares, each presented at one of four locations, appeared in between the search trials. Crucially, in one location, the square appeared with a regular rhythm, whereas the timing in the other locations was random. In Experiments 2a and 2b, a sequence of centrally presented colored circles was shown in between the search trials, of which one specific color appeared regularly. We expected that, if attention is automatically biased towards these temporal regularities, reaction times would be faster if the target matches the location (Experiments 1a-d) or color (Experiments 2a-b) of the regular stimulus. However, no reaction time benefit was observed for these targets, suggesting that there was no attentional bias towards the regularity. In addition, we found no evidence for attentional entrainment to the rhythmic stimulus. These results suggest that people do not use implicit rhythmic temporal regularities to guide their attention in the same way as they use order regularities.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1136-1149
Number of pages14
JournalAttention, Perception & Psychophysics
Issue number3
Early online date4-Sep-2019
Publication statusPublished - Jun-2020


  • Attentional bias
  • Statistical learning
  • Temporal regularity
  • Visual search
  • adult
  • article
  • attentional bias
  • female
  • human
  • human experiment
  • learning
  • male
  • reaction time
  • rhythm
  • systematic review
  • TIME

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