Academic journal article Attention, Perception and Psychophysics

The Effects of Visual Search Efficiency on Object-Based Attention

Academic journal article Attention, Perception and Psychophysics

The Effects of Visual Search Efficiency on Object-Based Attention

Article excerpt

Published online: 2 April 2015

© The Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2015

Abstract The attentional prioritization hypothesis of object-based attention (Shomstein & Yantis in Perception & Psychophysics, 64, 41-51, 2002) suggests a two-stage selection process comprising an automatic spatial gradient and flexible strategic (prioritization) selection. The combined attentional priorities of these two stages of object-based selection determine the order in which participants will search the display for the presence of a target. The strategic process has often been likened to a prioritized visual search. By modifying the double-rectangle cueing paradigm (Egly, Driver, & Rafal in Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 123, 161-177, 1994) and placing it in the context of a larger-scale visual search, we examined how the prioritization search is affected by search efficiency. By probing both targets located on the cued object and targets external to the cued object, we found that the attentional priority surrounding a selected object is strongly modulated by search mode. However, the ordering of the prioritization search is unaffected by search mode. The data also provide evidence that standard spatial visual search and object-based prioritization search may rely on distinct mechanisms. These results provide insight into the interactions between the mode of visual search and object-based selection, and help define the modulatory consequences of search efficiency for object-based attention.

Keywords Spatial cueing . Object representation . Search Mode . Exogenous cue

Visual attention operates selectively to ensure that cognitive processes are restricted to the most critical aspects of the input as they are propagated through the visual system. It has been widely shown that attentional mechanisms can accomplish this information selection in various ways-by selecting on the basis of spatial locations, features (color values, motion directions, etc.), and objectness. Object-based attentional selection has largely been studied through variations of a procedure introduced by Egly, Driver, and Rafal (1994), a cueing paradigm in which the target appears at the cued location, at an invalid location on the same object, or at an invalid location external to the cued object, with both invalid locations being equidistant from the cue. Under such conditions, participants not only show a validity effect (best report of target when it appears at the cued location), but also identify targets on the currently attended object better than those appearing elsewhere. The former result reflects the facilitation afforded by space-based attention, and the latter provides the key demonstration of the object-based attention (OBA) advantage (Egly et al., 1994).

The most robust account of OBA, to date, is the attentional prioritization hypothesis proposed by Shomstein and Yantis (2002). This theory posits the following two stages of selection: (1) an automatic spatial selection, in the form of a gradient centered on the cued location, and (2) a strategic stage, by which locations of perceived higher target probability are prioritized above locations of perceived lower target probability. The combined attentional priorities of these two stages of object-based selection determine the order in which participants will search the display for the presence of a target. This has often been likened to a visual search, during which the search order is determined by the combined priorities of items along many different feature dimensions (Wolfe, 1994). However, the difference during OBA is that perceptual object organization further constrains attentional prioritization (Shomstein, 2012).

The speed and nature of information transmission through the visual system has been assayed primarily by measuring performance using a variety of visual search paradigms (Egeth, Jonides, & Wall, 1972; Treisman, 1982). In these paradigms, the observer typically searches for a predefined target that is embedded among a host of lures or distracter items. …

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