Object-based attention: Strength of object representation and attentional guidance

Date of Original Version




Abstract or Description

Two or more features belonging to a single object are identified more quickly and more accurately than are features belonging to different objects—a finding attributed to sensory enhancement of all features belonging to an attended or selected object. However, several recent studies have suggested that this “single-object advantage” may be a product of probabilistic and configural strategic prioritizations rather than of object-based perceptual enhancement per se, challenging the underlying mechanism that is thought to give rise to object-based attention. In the present article, we further explore constraints on the mechanisms of object-based selection by examining the contribution of the strength of object representations to the single-object advantage. We manipulated factors such as exposure duration (i.e., preview time) and salience of configuration (i.e., objects). Varying preview time changes the magnitude of the object-based effect, so that if there is ample time to establish an object representation (i.e., preview time of 1,000 msec), then both probability and configuration (i.e., objects) guide attentional selection. If, however, insufficient time is provided to establish a robust object-based representation, then only probabilities guide attentional selection. Interestingly, at a short preview time of 200 msec, when the two objects were sufficiently different from each other (i.e., different colors), both configuration and probability guided attention selection. These results suggest that object-based effects can be explained both in terms of strength of object representations (established at longer exposure durations and by pictorial cues) and probabilistic contingencies in the visual environment.




Published In

Perception & Psychophysics, 70, 1, 132-144.