Selective attention in the speeded classification and comparison of multidimensional stimuli

Jeffrey L. Santee, Howard E. Egeth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


Selective attention was studied when subjects were required to make either speeded classifications of single stimuli or comparisons of pairs of multidimensional stimuli. Experiment 1 established that subjects were able to attend selectively to form when the irrelevant dimension of size or shading varied in a speeded-classification (card-sorting) task. Experiment 2 confirmed this finding in a discrete-trials task. However, subjects were not able to filter out irrelevant dimensional disparity in a comparably designed simultaneous-comparison (i.e., "same"-"different") task. Mean "same" reaction time increased monotonically with increases in disparity between the two stimuli on the irrelevant dimension. Experiment 3 also revealed a monotonie increase in "same" RT as a function of irrelevant disparity in a successive-comparison task. These results were discussed in terms of a normalization model proposed by Dixon and Just (1978) in which it is assumed that a subject equates the two stimuli on the irrelevant dimension before deciding that they are the same along the relevant dimension. It was concluded that: (1) although subjects can efficiently filter out irrelevant disparity in a speeded-classification task, interference due to irrelevant disparity is obtained in the comparison tasks, (2) a common process such as normalization does not necessarily underlie performance in the speeded-classification and comparison tasks, (3) the ability to attend selectively to a stimulus dimension may be task determined as well as stimulus determined, and (4) contrary to the Dixon and Just proposal, normalization of irrelevant disparity occurs in a comparison task, even when the relevant dimension is represented as a separate encoding feature.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)191-204
Number of pages14
JournalPerception & Psychophysics
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 1 1980

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Sensory Systems
  • Psychology(all)


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