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WIREs Cogn Sci
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Object‐based attention: strategy versus automaticity

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Abstract This article begins with a description of space‐ and object‐based guidance of attentional selection. It goes on to discuss the most influential, two‐rectangle, paradigm for demonstrating the existence of space‐ and object‐based attentional effects. The article then considers two different mechanisms, attentional spreading and attentional prioritization, that can potentially explain how object representations come to guide attentional selection. Finally, it discusses several empirical findings that have emerged in support of the two different mechanisms. It concludes by putting forth a new framework for investigating object‐based effects. WIREs Cogn Sci 2012, 3:163–169. doi: 10.1002/wcs.1162 This article is categorized under: Psychology > Attention

(a) Example of a typical two‐rectangle experiment. Note that the same‐object and the different‐object target locations are equidistant from the cue. (b) Idealized pattern of results (reaction time) for targets appearing in the same location as the cue (valid), in the same‐object as the cue (same‐object) and in the object that was not cued (different‐object). Space‐based effect (SBE), object‐based effect (OBE).

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Displays used by Shomstein and Yantis 29 to demonstrate absence of object‐based effects (OBEs) when target location was known in advance (i.e., target always appeared in the center). (a) Same‐object flankers; (b) different‐object flankers.

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(a) Spatial gradient following a sensory cue. Here, and in other panels, lighter color indicates greater sensory strength. (b and c) Two mechanisms. (b) Attentional spreading: spatial gradient along with a superimposed object gradient. (c) Attentional prioritization: spatial gradient along with the prioritization map. Higher priorities assigned to a within‐object location. Spatial gradient is denoted by green colors; object‐based effects (OBE) are denoted by yellow colors.

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