Serial deployment of attention during visual search

J Exp Psychol Hum Percept Perform. 2003 Feb;29(1):121-38. doi: 10.1037//0096-1523.29.1.121.


This study examined whether objects are attended in serial or in parallel during a demanding visual search task. A component of the event-related potential waveform, the N2pc wave, was used as a continuous measure of the allocation of attention to possible targets in the search arrays. Experiment 1 demonstrated that the relative allocation of attention shifts rapidly, favoring one item and then another. In Experiment 2, a paradigm was used that made it possible to track the absolute allocation of attention to individual items. This experiment showed that attention was allocated to one object for 100-150 ms before attention began to be allocated to the next object. These findings support models of attention that posit serial processing in demanding visual search tasks.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Evoked Potentials / physiology*
  • Functional Laterality
  • Humans
  • Models, Psychological
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual / physiology*
  • Perceptual Masking
  • Psychophysics
  • Reaction Time