Does visual attention select objects or locations?

J Exp Psychol Gen. 1994 Jun;123(2):146-60. doi: 10.1037//0096-3445.123.2.146.


Much research supports location-based attentional selection, but J. Duncan (1984) presented data favoring object-based selection in a shape discrimination task. Does attention select objects or locations? We confirmed that Duncan's task elicits selection from spatially invariant object representations rather than from a grouped location-based representation. We next asked whether this finding was due to location-based filtering; the results again supported object-based selection. Finally, we demonstrated that when Duncan's objects were used in a cued detection task the results were consistent with location-based selection. These results suggest that there may not be a single attention mechanism, consistent with Duncan's original claim that object-based and location-based attentional selection are not mutually exclusive. Rather, attentional limitations may depend on the type of stimulus representation used in performing a given task.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attention*
  • Cues
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Recall
  • Orientation*
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual*
  • Space Perception*