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Abstract: The theory of visual attention (TVA) provides a formal framework for the assessment of visual attention and related processes. Its center is a mathematical model of visual encoding processes and discretely defined components of attention. Building on this model, TVA offers quantitative and process-related explanations for a variety of phenomena in the domain of visual attention. Because the theory relies on very general assumptions which might hold true for other domains of sensory processing, we tested its possible explanatory value for tactile processing in mice. Reanalyzing published data of temporal-order judgments by mice, we show how a TVA-based analysis identifies the processes which drive observable behavior and that it comes to conclusions quite different from those of conventional analyses of temporal-order judgments. According to this analysis, despite the same overall capacity dedicated to the task, some mice assume attentional biases toward one side, possibly to optimize their overall performance. We suggest that TVA's concepts provide a powerful point of vantage to find explanations for observable behavior where conventional analysis easily leads to dead ends.

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