Previous studies have explored the effects of attention on spatial representation. Specifically, in the attentional repulsion effect, a transient visual cue that captures attention has been shown to alter the perceived position of a target stimulus to the direction away from the cue. The effect is also susceptible to retrospective influence, that attention appears to attract the target when the cue appears afterwards. This study examined the necessity of visual awareness of the cue in these phenomena. We found that when the cues were rendered invisible by backward visual masks, both repulsion and attraction effects were weakened but still observed. The results suggest that the effects possibly depend on processes that are not necessarily associated with conscious visual awareness of the cues. We conjecture that attentional shift produced by the weak, invisible cues may play a role in spatial distortion; but other possible accounts including non-attentional ones are also discussed.
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