Trichotomy revisited: A monolithic theory of attentional control. Academic Article uri icon


  • The control of attention was long held to reflect the influence of two competing mechanisms of assigning priority, one goal-directed and the other stimulus-driven. Learning-dependent influences on the control of attention that could not be attributed to either of those two established mechanisms of control gave rise to the concept of selection history and a corresponding third mechanism of attentional control. The trichotomy framework that ensued has come to dominate theories of attentional control over the past decade, replacing the historical dichotomy. In this theoretical review, I readily affirm that distinctions between the influence of goals, salience, and selection history are substantive and meaningful, and that abandoning the dichotomy between goal-directed and stimulus-driven mechanisms of control was appropriate. I do, however, question whether a theoretical trichotomy is the right answer to the problem posed by selection history. If we reframe the influence of goals and selection history as different flavors of memory-dependent modulations of attentional priority and if we characterize the influence of salience as a consequence of insufficient competition from such memory-dependent sources of priority, it is possible to account for a wide range of attention-related phenomena with only one mechanism of control. The monolithic framework for the control of attention that I propose offers several concrete advantages over a trichotomy framework, which I explore here.

published proceedings

  • Vision Res

author list (cited authors)

  • Anderson, B. A.

citation count

  • 0

complete list of authors

  • Anderson, Brian A

publication date

  • April 2024