The attentional weight of a visual object depends on the contrast of the features of the object to its local surroundings (feature contrast) and the relevance of the features to one’s goals (feature relevance). We investigated the dependency in partial report experiments with briefly presented stimuli but unspeeded responses. The task was to report the letters from a mixture of letters (targets) and digits (distractors). Color was irrelevant to the task, but many stimulus displays contained an item (target or distractor) in a deviant color (a color singleton). The results showed concurrent effects of feature contrast (color singleton vs. nonsingleton) and relevance (target vs. distractor). A singleton target had a higher probability of being reported than did a nonsingleton target, and a singleton distractor interfered more strongly with report of targets than did a nonsingleton distractor. Measured by use of Bundesen’s (1990) computational theory of visual attention, the attentional weight of a singleton object was nearly proportional to the weight of an otherwise similar nonsingleton object, with a factor of proportionality that increased with the strength of the feature contrast of the singleton. This result is explained by generalizing the weight equation of Bundesen’s (1990) theory of visual attention such that the attentional weight of an object becomes a product of a bottom-up (feature contrast) and a top-down (feature relevance) component.
Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 2013, Vol 142, Issue 2, p. 510-537
Faculty of Social Sciences; visual attention; stimulus-driven; goal-driven; theory of visual attention; computational modeling