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Anna Grubert, Martin Eimer; The capacity of attentional templates . Journal of Vision 2016;16(12):1293. https://doi.org/10.1167/16.12.1293.
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During search for known objects, attentional selection is guided by target representations held in visual working memory. Such attentional templates are activated in a preparatory fashion prior to search and bias spatial attention towards objects with target-matching features. The capacity of such attentional templates remains contentious. Some studies have suggested that attentional control can be set for multiple features simultaneously, while others indicate that the capacity of attentional templates is more limited. We have previously found that the allocation of attention in visual search is slower and less target-selective when it is guided by multiple- relative to single-colour templates (Grubert & Eimer, 2013). More recently, we demonstrated that despite this efficiency cost of multiple-colour search, attention can be guided rapidly and independently by two simultaneously active target-colour templates (Grubert & Eimer, 2015). However, it may still be more difficult to exclude nontarget-colour distractors from attentional processing during multiple-colour relative to single-colour search. In a new study, we systematically tested this possibility with spatial cueing procedures similar to those used in an earlier behavioural study (Irons et al., 2012), and recorded N2pc components as ERP markers of attentional object selection. In different blocks, participants searched for targets defined by one constant colour or two different colours. Search displays were preceded by spatially uninformative colour singleton cues that could either match the current target colour(s) or a distractor colour. Both during one-colour and two-colour search, only target-matching cues triggered N2pc components and behavioural spatial cueing effects indicative of attentional capture. No such effects were found for distractor-colour cues, demonstrating that they were successfully excluded from attentional processing. Although there are qualitative differences between attentional guidance by single-colour versus multiple-colour templates, these results show that target templates can represent multiple colours simultaneously.
Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2016
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