The N2pc component has recently become a popular tool in attention research. To investigate whether this component exclusively reflects attentional target selection or also prior stages in attentional processing (covert orienting, target-unspecific spatial attention), a spatial cuing procedure was combined with a visual search task. In some blocks, informative cues indicated the side of upcoming singleton targets that were present on most trials among uniform distractors. In other blocks, cues were spatially uninformative, and no preparatory shifts of attention were possible. The N2pc in response to targets was unaffected by this manipulation, showing that this component is not associated with attention shifts. Following informative cues, an attenuated N2pc was elicited by uniform nontarget arrays, suggesting that the N2pc may also reflect spatially specific processing of stimulus features at task-relevant locations prior to target selection
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