Object-based selection of irrelevant features is not confined to the attended object

Carsten N Boehler, Mircea A Schoenfeld, Hans-Jochen Heinze, Jens-Max Hopf
Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience 2011, 23 (9): 2231-9
Attention to one feature of an object can bias the processing of unattended features of that object. Here we demonstrate with ERPs in visual search that this object-based bias for an irrelevant feature also appears in an unattended object when it shares that feature with the target object. Specifically, we show that the ERP response elicited by a distractor object in one visual field is modulated as a function of whether a task-irrelevant color of that distractor is also present in the target object that is presented in the opposite visual field. Importantly, we find this modulation to arise with a delay of approximately 80 msec relative to the N2pc--a component of the ERP response that reflects the focusing of attention onto the target. In a second experiment, we demonstrate that this modulation reflects enhanced neural processing in the unattended object. These observations together facilitate the surprising conclusion that the object-based selection of irrelevant features is spatially global even after attention has selected the target object.

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