Interaction between object-based attention and pertinence values shapes the attentional priority map of a multielement display.
Gillebert CR., Petersen A., Van Meel C., Müller T., McIntyre A., Wagemans J., Humphreys GW.
Previous studies have shown that the perceptual organization of the visual scene constrains the deployment of attention. Here we investigated how the organization of multiple elements into larger configurations alters their attentional weight, depending on the "pertinence" or behavioral importance of the elements' features. We assessed object-based effects on distinct aspects of the attentional priority map: top-down control, reflecting the tendency to encode targets rather than distracters, and the spatial distribution of attention weights across the visual scene, reflecting the tendency to report elements belonging to the same rather than different objects. In 2 experiments participants had to report the letters in briefly presented displays containing 8 letters and digits, in which pairs of characters could be connected with a line. Quantitative estimates of top-down control were obtained using Bundesen's Theory of Visual Attention (1990). The spatial distribution of attention weights was assessed using the "paired response index" (PRI), indicating responses for within-object pairs of letters. In Experiment 1, grouping along the task-relevant dimension (targets with targets and distracters with distracters) increased top-down control and enhanced the PRI; in contrast, task-irrelevant grouping (targets with distracters) did not affect performance. In Experiment 2, we disentangled the effect of target-target and distracter-distracter grouping: Pairwise grouping of distracters enhanced top-down control whereas pairwise grouping of targets changed the PRI. We conclude that object-based perceptual representations interact with pertinence values (of the elements' features and location) in the computation of attention weights, thereby creating a widespread pattern of attentional facilitation across the visual scene. (PsycINFO Database Record