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Ilanit Hochmitz, Marc M. Lauffs, Michael H. Herzog, Yaffa Yeshurun; Sustained spatial attention can affect feature fusion. Journal of Vision 2018;18(6):20. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/18.6.20.
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When two verniers are presented in rapid succession at the same location, feature fusion occurs. Instead of perceiving two separate verniers, participants typically report perceiving one fused vernier, whose offset is a combination of the two previous verniers, with the later one slightly dominating. Here, we examined the effects of sustained attention—the voluntary component of spatial attention—on feature fusion. One way to manipulate sustained attention is via the degree of certainty regarding the stimulus location. In the attended condition, the stimulus appeared always in the same location, and in the unattended condition it could appear in one of two possible locations. Participants had to report the offset of the fused vernier. Experiments 1 and 2 measured attentional effects on feature fusion with and without eye-tracking. In both experiments, we found a higher rate of reports corresponding to the offset of the second vernier with focused attention than without focused attention, suggesting that attention strengthened the final percept emerging from the fusion operation. In Experiment 3, we manipulated the stimulus duration to encourage a final fused percept that is dominated by either the first or second vernier. We found that attention strengthened the already dominant percept, regardless of whether it corresponded to the offset of the first or second vernier. These results are consistent with an attentional mechanism of signal enhancement at the encoding stage.
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