Attentional enhancement during multiple-object tracking

Psychon Bull Rev. 2009 Apr;16(2):411-7. doi: 10.3758/PBR.16.2.411.


What is the role of attention in multiple-object tracking? Does attention enhance target representations, suppress distractor representations, or both? It is difficult to ask this question in a purely behavioral paradigm without altering the very attentional allocation one is trying to measure. In the present study, we used event-related potentials to examine the early visual evoked responses to task-irrelevant probes without requiring an additional detection task. Subjects tracked two targets among four moving distractors and four stationary distractors. Brief probes were flashed on targets, moving distractors, stationary distractors, or empty space. We obtained a significant enhancement of the visually evoked P1 and N1 components (approximately 100-150 msec) for probes on targets, relative to distractors. Furthermore, good trackers showed larger differences between target and distractor probes than did poor trackers. These results provide evidence of early attentional enhancement of tracked target items and also provide a novel approach to measuring attentional allocation during tracking.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology
  • Color Perception / physiology
  • Discrimination Learning / physiology*
  • Dominance, Cerebral / physiology
  • Electroencephalography*
  • Evoked Potentials, Visual / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Motion Perception / physiology*
  • Orientation / physiology*
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual / physiology*
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Signal Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Young Adult