Object-based visual selective attention and perceptual organization

Stephen E. Watson, Arthur F. Kramer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We report the results of four experiments that were conducted to examine both the representations that provide candidate entities available for object-based attentional selection and the influence of bottom-up factors (i.e., geometric and surface characteristics of objects) and top-down factors (i.e., context and expectancies) on the selection process. Subjects performed the same task in each of the experiments. They were asked to determine whether two target properties, a bent end and an open end of a wrench, appeared in a brief display of two wrenches. In each experiment, the target properties could occur on a single wrench or one property could occur on each of two wrenches. The question of central interest was whether a same-object effect (faster and/or more accurate performance when the target properties appeared on one vs. two wrenches) would be observed in different experimental conditions. Several interesting results were obtained. First, depending on the geometric (i.e., concave discontinuities on object contours) and surface characteristics (i.e., homogeneous regions of color and texture) of the stimuli, attention was preferentially directed to one of three representational levels, as indicated by the presence or absence of the same-object effect. Second, although geometric and surface characteristics defined the candidate objects available for attentional selection, top-down factors were quite influential in determining which representational level would be selected. Third, the results suggest that uniform connectedness plays an important role in defining the entities available for attention selection. These results are discussed in terms of the manner in which attention selects objects in the visual environment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)31-49
Number of pages19
JournalPerception and Psychophysics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1999

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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