August 2010
Volume 10, Issue 7
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   August 2010
The Representation of Ensemble Statistics Outside the Focus of Attention
Author Affiliations
  • George Alvarez
    Harvard University, Department of Psychology
Journal of Vision August 2010, Vol.10, 25. doi:
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      George Alvarez; The Representation of Ensemble Statistics Outside the Focus of Attention. Journal of Vision 2010;10(7):25.

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      © ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)

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We can only attend to a few objects at once, and yet our perceptual experience is rich and detailed. What type of representation could enable this subjective experience? I have explored the possibility that perception consists of (1) detailed and accurate representations of currently attended objects, plus (2) a statistical summary of information outside the focus of attention. This point of view makes a distinction between individual features and statistical summary features. For example, a single object's location is an individual feature. In contrast, the center of mass of several objects (the centroid) is a statistical summary feature, because it collapses across individual details and represents the group overall. Summary statistics are more accurate than individual features because random, independent noise in the individual features cancels out when averaged together. I will present evidence that the visual system can compute statistical summary features outside the focus of attention even when local features cannot be accurately reported. This finding holds for simple summary statistics including the centroid of a set of uniform objects, and for texture patterns that resemble natural image statistics. Thus, it appears that information outside the focus of attention can be represented at an abstract level that lacks local detail, but nevertheless carries a precise statistical summary of the scene. The term ‘ensemble features’ refers to a broad class of statistical summary features, which we propose collectively comprise the representation of information outside the focus of attention (i.e., under conditions of reduced attention).

Alvarez, G. (2010). The Representation of Ensemble Statistics Outside the Focus of Attention [Abstract]. Journal of Vision, 10(7):25, 25a,, doi:10.1167/10.7.25. [CrossRef]

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