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The question whether the control of attention during visual search is always feature-based or can also be based on the category of objects remains unresolved. Here, we employed the N2pc component as an on-line marker for target selection processes to compare the efficiency of feature-based and category-based attentional guidance. Two successive displays containing pairs of real-world objects (line drawings of kitchen or clothing items) were separated by a 10 ms SOA. In Experiment 1, target objects were defined by their category. In Experiment 2, one specific visual object served as target (exemplar-based search). On different trials, targets appeared either in one or in both displays, and participants had to report the number of targets (one or two). Target N2pc components were larger and emerged earlier during exemplar-based search than during category-based search, demonstrating the superior efficiency of feature-based attentional guidance. On trials where target objects appeared in both displays, both targets elicited N2pc components that overlapped in time, suggesting that attention was allocated in parallel to these target objects. Critically, this was the case not only in the exemplar-based task, but also when targets were defined by their category. These results demonstrate that attention can be guided by object categories, and that this type of category-based attentional control can operate concurrently for multiple target objects.
This article was published in the following journal.
Name: Biological psychology
During visual search, attention is believed to be controlled in a strictly feature-based fashion, without any guidance by object-based target representations. To challenge this received view, we measu...
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Prior research has shown that category search can be similar to one-item search (as measured by the N2pc ERP marker of attentional selection) for highly familiar, smaller categories (e.g., letters and...
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