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W. Trammell Neill, Yongna Li, George Seror, Patrick O'Connor; Between-object superiority in divided attention. Journal of Vision 2009;9(8):207. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/9.8.207.
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Is spatial attention directed to locations in space, or to objects? Evidence for “object-based attention” is that two features of the same object are often processed more efficiently than two features of two different objects. However, experiments in which subjects judge object features as “same” or “different” often find the opposite result (Davis & Holmes, 2005; Neill et al., 2008 VSS), i.e., “between-object superiority” (BOS). Over multiple experiments, we find robust BOS when target features are square or triangular notches in the object outlines, weaker effects when the target features are square or triangular shapes within the objects, and no effects when target features are letters within the objects. These results obtain even when types of target feature are randomly intermixed over trials. The results suggest that BOS depends on the degree to which target features are perceived as “parts” of the objects rather than as additional objects superimposed on the larger objects. But why does BOS occur at all, when other procedures typically yield within-object superiority? We consider three theoretical explanations: (1) parts of the same object compete for attentional capacity allocated to that object; (2) two parts of the same object cause the entire object to be represented in working memory; (3) target features on different objects permit wholistic comparison of the two objects.
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