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Lee H. de-Wit, Geoff G. Cole, Robert W. Kentridge, A. David Milner; The parallel representation of the objects selected by attention. Journal of Vision 2011;11(4):13. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/11.4.13.
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The allocation of visual attention is known to be influenced by objects (B. Scholl, 2001). This object sensitivity is commonly assumed to derive from a pre-attentive stage of scene segmentation that provides a parallel representation of important structural features that can play a functional role in guiding the allocation of processing resources. In many standard “object-based attention” experiments, however, no more than two objects are ever presented. Moreover, these objects are typically presented at a predictable location for up to a second before the participant is cued to allocate attention to these objects (R. Egly, J. Driver, & R. D. Rafal, 1994). One can, therefore, ask whether many standard object-based attentional paradigms really support the notion of a parallel and pre-attentional representation. Our results, however, support the commonly held assumption that numerous objects can be maintained in parallel. Indeed, in apparent contrast to other object-based paradigms, where limits of up to (a “magic number”) four are often observed, this paper found that at the least twelve objects could be maintained as potential units of selection. The results, therefore, provide evidence that the object segmentation involved in this object-based attention paradigm derives from a representation of numerous potential units of attentional selection that are maintained in parallel.
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