Academic journal article Attention, Perception and Psychophysics

News from the Field

Academic journal article Attention, Perception and Psychophysics

News from the Field

Article excerpt

Published online: 5 February 2014

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2014


Relationships Matter

Becker,S.I.,Folk,C.L.,&Remington,R.W.(2013). Attentional capture does not depend on feature similarity, but on target-nontarget relations. Psychological Science, 24(5), 634-647.

We can direct attention to something like a red target very efficiently, so we took it for granted that, computationally, this task would be implemented in the most straightforward way: prioritizing the feature "red" and deprioritizing everything else. However, Becker, Folk, and Remington (2013) argue for a more sophisticated strategy. The mechanism of atten- tional selection may find the target based on its relationship with the context. We may not direct our attention to some absolute "red" but rather to the "reddest" items in the display. An observer, set of "reddest" might deploy attention to an orange item if it is redder than anything else in the display.

The difference between these two implementations of selection (by feature vs. by relation) can be revealed by measuring contingent capture by another set of task- irrelevant stimuli. In Becker et al (2013), the observers attemptedtofindacolor-definedtargetamongatotalof 4 items. Each item was preceded by a four-dot cue surrounding the item. These 4 cues were also colored, with the color of one of them different from the rest. If the selection of the target was facilitated by the odd- color cue compared to when that cue surrounded anoth- er item, then we know the odd-color cue has attracted attention.

Becker et al (2013) used four colors: red, orange, gold, and yellow, which were evenly distributed along a line in color space from red to yellow. In Experiment 1, when the search task was "orange among gold",botha"red among orange" cue and a "gold among yellow" cue attracted attention because they shared the same relation (redder) with the search task. Sensitivity to absolute feature values would not predict this. In a search for orange among gold the " gold " in "gold among yellow" condition should be inhibited while the "orange" in the "red among orange" condition should have been facilitat- ed. On the other hand even though the target was orange among gold, neither an orange singleton cue among red cue nor a yellow among gold cue attracted attention because the unique cue was yellower while the search target was redder.

Experiment 2 found that, more strikingly, attentional selec- tion also relies on relationships even when the task is selection of an intermediate feature value. For example, when the search task was "orange among red + yellow",a"gold among orange + yellow" cue attracted attention because the cue and search task shared the same relation (the middle one). On the other hand, an "orange among gold + yellow" cue did not attract attention because the relationship was inconsistent between the cues (the reddest) and in the search task (the middle one).

To summarize, the experiments demonstrated that at- tention system often makes selections based on the relationship between the target and the context rather than on the absolute feature values. This finding has important implications on the studies of visual attention because it showed that "feature-based selection" really refers to the relationships between features. This might lead to an entirely different way of formulating the algorithms of visual selection.-L.Q.H.


Steppin' out

Westrick, Z. M., Henry, C. A., & Landy, M. S. (2013) Inconsis- tent channel bandwidth estimates suggest winner-take-all nonlin- earity in second-order vision. Vision Research, 81(58), 58-68.

Neurons identified by Hubel and Weisel (1959;) have different preferences for dark and light stripes. There are neurons that like thin stripes, neurons that like thick stripes, and neurons that like everything in between. The strength of those preferences can be quantified in terms of "bandwidth. …

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