Academic journal article Attention, Perception and Psychophysics

Neural Evidence for Serial Search

Academic journal article Attention, Perception and Psychophysics

Neural Evidence for Serial Search

Article excerpt

VISUAL ATTENTION

BUSCHMAN & MILLER (2009). Serial, covert shifts of attention during visual search are reflected by the frontal eye fields and correlated with population oscillations. Neuron, 63, 386.

In visual search for a target among distractors, some targets "pop out," grabbing attention immediately regardless of the number of distractor items. For other combinations of target and distractors, the time required to find the target increases roughly linearly with the number of distractors. Do these linear increases reflect serial deployments of attention from item to item, or a parallel process, whose time to completion is linearly dependent on the number of items?

A striking new f inding from Buschman and Miller gives neural evidence for serial deployments. The result is built on the search habits of macaque monkeys. Apparently, if you ask them to find a target in an array of four distractors, they will march through those items, one every 40-50 msec, in the same order on almost every trial. A specific monkey might, for example, start at the lower left and deploy attention in a clockwise manner. At least, that is what the monkeys' reaction times (RTs) indicate in this experiment. In this case, the RT is a saccadic latency, measured by having a monkey fixate on one point and only move his eyes to the target once it is found. …

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