Is object-based attention mandatory? Strategic control over mode of attention

Menahem Yeari, Morris Goldsmith
Journal of Experimental Psychology. Human Perception and Performance 2010, 36 (3): 565-79
Is object-based attention mandatory or under strategic control? In an adapted spatial cuing paradigm, participants focused initially on a central arrow cue that was part of a perceptual group (Experiment 1) or a uniformly connected object (Experiment 2), encompassing one of the potential target locations. The cue always pointed to an opposite, different-object location. By varying cue validity, the strategic incentive to prevent the spread of attention to the entire cue object, and consequently to the same-object location, was manipulated: With invalid cuing and (consequently) equal probability of targets at same-object and different-object locations, a same-object target identification advantage was observed. With highly valid cuing and targets much more probable at the different-object location than at the same-object location, the same-object advantage disappeared. Object-based attention appears to be a default mode that may be ecologically adaptive but can be overridden by strategic control when there is a strong immediate benefit in doing so.

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