Perception of objects in natural scenes: is it really attention free?

J Exp Psychol Hum Percept Perform. 2005 Dec;31(6):1476-92. doi: 10.1037/0096-1523.31.6.1476.


Studies have suggested attention-free semantic processing of natural scenes in which concurrent tasks leave category detection unimpaired (e.g., F. Li, R. VanRullen, C. Koch, & P. Perona, 2002). Could this ability reflect detection of disjunctive feature sets rather than high-level binding? Participants detected an animal target in a rapid serial visual presentation (RSVP) sequence and then reported its identity and location. They frequently failed to identify or to localize targets that they had correctly detected, suggesting that detection was based only on partial processing. Detection of targets was considerably worse in sequences that also contained humans, presumably because of shared features. When 2 targets were presented in RSVP, a prolonged attentional blink appeared that was almost eliminated when both targets were detected without being identified. The results suggest rapid feature analysis mediating detection, followed by attention-demanding binding for identification and localization.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Attention*
  • Environment*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Semantics
  • Visual Perception*