Object-based attention: sensory modulation or priority setting?

Percept Psychophys. 2002 Jan;64(1):41-51. doi: 10.3758/bf03194556.


The detection of an invalidly cued target is faster when it appears within a cued object than when it appears in an uncued object equally distant from the cued location; this is a manifestation of object based attention. Five experiments are reported in which it was investigated whether early sensory enhancement (in which attention "spreads" within an attended object but stops at its borders) or a later attentional prioritization mechanism best accounts for these effects. In Experiments 1-4, subjects identified a centrally located target with a buttonpress while attempting to ignore flanking distractors that were mapped to either a compatible or an incompatible response. The flankers appeared either within the object occupied by the target or in a different object but at the same distance from the target. The well-known effect of distance between the target and the flankers on the magnitude of the compatibility effect was replicated. However, whether the target and the flankers were in the same or different objects had no effect on the magnitude of the compatibility effect. In Experiment 5, when attention could not be narrowly focused in advance, object-based modulation of the flanker effect was observed. These results suggest that object-based selection may reflect an object-specific attentional prioritization strategy, rather than object-based attentional modulation of an early sensory representation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Attention*
  • Cues
  • Distance Perception
  • Humans
  • Random Allocation
  • Reaction Time