Varieties of attention

their roles in visual word identification

Derek Besner*, Evan F. Risko, Jennifer A. Stolz, Darcy White, Michael Reynolds, Shannon O’Malley, Serje Robidoux

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

12 Citations (Scopus)


The standard view in cognition is that the identification of visually presented words, up to and including semantic activation, is automatic in various senses. The perspective favored here is that various kinds of attention are intimately involved in the identification of words. Some forms of attention are necessary, whereas others (i.e., executive attention) are recruited to optimize performance. We briefly review results from a variety of literatures that (a) support the latter perspective and (b) are difficult to reconcile with an automatic-processing account.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)162-168
Number of pages7
JournalCurrent Directions in Psychological Science
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2016



  • automaticity
  • visual word identification
  • mental control
  • spatial attention
  • pathway control

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