Attentional Facilitation of Constituent Features of an Object Does Not Spread Automatically along Object-defining Cortical Boundaries

J Cogn Neurosci. 2019 Feb;31(2):278-287. doi: 10.1162/jocn_a_01350. Epub 2018 Oct 15.


The integrated object account predicts that attention is spread across all features that constitute one object, regardless of their task relevance. We challenge that prediction with a novel stimulation technique that allows for simultaneous electrophysiological measurements of the allocation of attention to two distinct features within one object. A rotating square that flickers in different colors evoked two distinct steady-state visual evoked potentials (SSVEPs) for rotation and color, respectively. If the integrated object account were true, we would expect identical SSVEP amplitudes regardless of what feature participants attended. We found greater SSVEP amplitudes for the to-be-attended feature compared with the to-be-ignored feature. SSVEP amplitudes averaged across both features were significantly reduced when participants attended to both features, which was mirrored in behavioral costs, implying competitive interactions or a division of attentional resources. Surprisingly, this reduction in amplitude was mainly driven by the SSVEP amplitude elicited by color changes. In conclusion, our results challenge the integrated object account and highlight the extent to which color is "special" within feature space.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology*
  • Electroencephalography
  • Evoked Potentials, Visual / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Motion Perception / physiology*
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual / physiology*
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*
  • Young Adult