Spatial interference between attended items engenders serial visual processing

Yusuke Yamani, Jason S. McCarley, Jeffrey R.W. Mounts, Arthur F. Kramer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A pair of experiments investigated the architecture of visual processing, parallel versus serial, across high and low levels of spatial interference in a divided attention task. Subjects made speeded judgments that required them to attend to a pair of color-cued objects among gray filler items, with the spatial proximity between the attended items varied to manipulate the strength of interference between attended items. Systems factorial analysis (Townsend & Nozawa, Journal of Mathematical Psychology 39:321-359, 1995) was used to identify processing architecture. Experiment 1, using moderately dense displays, found evidence of parallel processing whether attended objects were in low or high proximity to one another. Experiment 2, using higher-density displays, found evidence of parallel selection when attended stimuli were widely separated but serial processing when they were in high proximity. Divided visual attention can operate in parallel under conditions of low or moderate spatial interference between selected items, but strong interference engenders serial processing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)229-243
Number of pages15
JournalAttention, Perception, and Psychophysics
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2013


  • Cognitive architecture
  • Systems factorial technology
  • Visual selective attention

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Sensory Systems
  • Linguistics and Language


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