The extent to which spatial selection is driven by the goals of the observer and by the properties of the environment is one of the major issues in the field of visual attention. Here we review recent experimental evidence from behavioral and eye movement studies suggesting that top-down control has temporal and spatial limits. More specifically, we argue that the first feedforward sweep of information is bottom-up, and that top-down control can influence selection only after the sweep is completed. In addition, top-down control can limit spatial selection through adjusting the size of attentional window, an area of visual space which receives priority in information sampling. Finally, we discuss the evidence found using brain imaging techniques for top-down control in an attempt to reconcile it with behavioral findings. We conclude by discussing theoretical implications of these results for the current models of visual selection.
van der Stigchel, S., Belopolsky, A. V., Peters, J. C., Wijnen, J. G., Meeter, M., & Theeuwes, J. (2009). The limits of top-down control of visual attention. Acta Psychologica, 132(3), 201-212. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.actpsy.2009.07.001