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Yixue Wang, James Miller, Taosheng Liu; Suppression effects in feature-based attention. Journal of Vision 2015;15(5):15. doi: 10.1167/15.5.15.
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Attending to a feature enhances visual processing of that feature, but it is less clear what occurs to unattended features. Single-unit recording studies in middle temporal (MT) have shown that neuronal modulation is a monotonic function of the difference between the attended and neuron's preferred direction. Such a relationship should predict a monotonic suppressive effect in psychophysical performance. However, past research on suppressive effects of feature-based attention has remained inconclusive. We investigated the suppressive effect for motion direction, orientation, and color in three experiments. We asked participants to detect a weak signal among noise and provided a partially valid feature cue to manipulate attention. We measured performance as a function of the offset between the cued and signal feature. We also included neutral trials where no feature cues were presented to provide a baseline measure of performance. Across three experiments, we consistently observed enhancement effects when the target feature and cued feature coincided and suppression effects when the target feature deviated from the cued feature. The exact profile of suppression was different across feature dimensions: Whereas the profile for direction exhibited a “rebound” effect, the profiles for orientation and color were monotonic. These results demonstrate that unattended features are suppressed during feature-based attention, but the exact suppression profile depends on the specific feature. Overall, the results are largely consistent with neurophysiological data and support the feature-similarity gain model of attention.
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