Space, object, and task selection

Joel Lachter, Roger W Remington, Eric Ruthruff
Attention, Perception & Psychophysics 2009, 71 (5): 995-1014
Within the field of selective attention, two separate literatures have developed, one examining the effect of selection of objects and another examining the effect of selection of features. The present study bridged these two traditions by examining the compatibility effects generated by two features of attended and unattended nontarget (foil) stimuli. On each trial, participants determined either the identity or the orientation of a visual stimulus. Spatial attention was controlled using cues (presented prior to the target frame) designed to involuntarily capture attention. We independently manipulated the stimulus dimension the participants prepared for and the stimulus dimension on which they actually executed the task. Preparation had little influence on the magnitude of compatibility effects from foil stimuli. For attended stimuli, the stimulus dimension used in executing the task produced large compatibility effects, regardless of whether that dimension was prepared. These and other compatibility effects (e.g., Stroop effects) are discussed in relation to an integrative model of attentional selection. The key assumptions are that (1) selection occurs at three distinct levels (space, object, and task), (2) spatial attention leads to semantic processing of all dimensions, and (3) features do not automatically activate responses unless that object is selected for action.

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