Perceptual selectivity for color and form

Percept Psychophys. 1992 Jun;51(6):599-606. doi: 10.3758/bf03211656.


Three visual-search experiments tested whether the preattentive parallel stage can selectively guide the attentive stage to a particular known-to-be-relevant target feature. Subjects searched multielement displays for a salient green circle that had a unique form when surrounded by green nontarget squares or had a unique color when surrounded by red nontarget circles. In the distractor conditions, a salient item in the other dimension was present as well. As an extension of earlier findings (Theeuwes, 1991), the results showed that complete top-down selectivity toward a particular feature was not possible, not even after extended and consistent practice. The results reveal that selectivity depends on the relative discriminability of the stimulus dimensions: the presence of an irrelevant item with a unique color interferes with parallel search for a unique form, and vice versa.

Publication types

  • Comment

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Color Perception / physiology*
  • Equipment Design
  • Female
  • Form Perception / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Processes
  • Perceptual Masking