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Ilia Korjoukov, Pieter Roelfsema, Jillian Fecteau; Features or space: Which dominates attentional selection?. Journal of Vision 2007;7(9):436. doi: 10.1167/7.9.436.
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Attention can be directed to two sources of information: to features or to space. In this study, we explored how priming affects these two types of attention. Observers performed a visual search task, in which they indicated whether a pre-specified target was a vowel or a consonant. Four letters served as potential targets. Unbeknownst to the participants, two letters were primed: one appeared in the same color 75% of the time and one appeared at the same location 75% of the time. We assumed that color priming would have a greater influence on feature-based attention and location priming would have a greater influence on space-based attention.
We found that color and location priming shared many features: both forms of priming sped up reaction times to a similar degree and started in a comparable number of trials. Important differences were observed as well. Location priming facilitated all targets appearing at the primed location, whereas color priming was specific to its primed letter. In a second experiment, we tested whether color and location priming are independent by adding a third condition, in which the target appeared in the same color and at the same location 75% of the time. We found that the combination of color and location priming was additive the advantage of ‘both’ equaled the sum of each one. Therefore, feature-based and space-based attention possess different characteristics. Location priming may facilitate processing at an earlier stage, which benefits all targets. By contrast, color priming acts at a later stage where shape and color are integrated. Additional experiments show the mechanisms of this color priming - the situations in which it does and does not generalize.
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