Tracking multiple targets with multifocal attention

Trends Cogn Sci. 2005 Jul;9(7):349-54. doi: 10.1016/j.tics.2005.05.009.


Attention allows us to monitor objects or regions of visual space and select information from them for report or storage. Classical theories of attention assumed a single focus of selection but many everyday activities, such as video games, navigating busy intersections, or watching over children at a swimming pool, require attention to multiple regions of interest. Laboratory tracking tasks have indeed demonstrated the ability to track four or more targets simultaneously. Although the mechanisms by which attention maintains contact with several targets are not yet established, recent studies have identified several characteristics of the tracking process, including properties defining a 'trackable' target, the maximum number of targets that can be tracked, and the hemifield independence of the tracking process. This research also has implications for computer vision, where there is a growing demand for multiple-object tracking.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Attention / physiology*
  • Eye Movements / physiology
  • Humans
  • Models, Neurological*
  • Models, Psychological
  • Vision, Ocular / physiology*
  • Visual Perception / physiology*