Detection is unaffected by the deployment of focal attention

Jeff Moher, Brandon K. Ashinoff, Howard E. Egeth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

There has been much debate regarding how much information humans can extract from their environment without the use of limited attentional resources. In a recent study, Theeuwes et al. (2008) argued that even detection of simple feature targets is not possible without selection by focal attention. Supporting this claim, they found response time (RT) benefits in a simple feature (color) detection task when a target letter's identity was repeated on consecutive trials, suggesting that the letter was selected by focal attention and identified prior to detection. This intertrial repetition benefit remained even when observers were required to simultaneously identify a central digit. However, we found that intertrial repetition benefits disappeared when a simple color target was presented among a heterogeneously (rather than homogeneously) colored set of distractors, thus reducing its bottom-up salience. Still, detection performance remained high. Thus, detection performance was unaffected by whether a letter was focally attended and identified prior to detection or not. Intertrial identity repetition benefits also disappeared when observers were required to perform a simultaneous, attention-demanding central task (Experiment 2), or when unfamiliar Chinese characters were used (Experiment 3). Together, these results suggest that while shifts of focal attention can be affected by target salience, by the availability of excess cognitive resources, and by target familiarity, detection performance itself is unaffected by these manipulations and is thus unaffected by the deployment of focal attention.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberArticle 284
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Volume4
Issue numberMAY
DOIs
StatePublished - 2013

Keywords

  • Focal attention
  • Locus of selection
  • Perception
  • Priming
  • Salience

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)

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