Visual attention and the apprehension of spatial relations: The case of depth

Cathleen M. Moore, Catherine L. Elsinger, Alejandro Lleras

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Several studies have shown that targets defined on the basis of the spatial relations between objects yield highly inefficient visual search performance (e.g., Logan, 1994; Palmer, 1994), suggesting that the apprehension of spatial relations may require the selective allocation of attention within the scene. In the present study, we tested the hypothesis that depth relations might be different in this regard and might support efficient visual search. This hypothesis was based, in part, on the fact that many perceptual organization processes that are believed to occur early and in parallel, such as figure-ground segregation and perceptual completion, seem to depend on the assignment of depth relations. Despite this, however, using increasingly salient cues to depth (Experiments 2-4) and including a separate test of the sufficiency of the most salient depth cue used (Experiment 5), no evidence was found to indicate that search for a target defined by depth relations is any different than search for a target defined by other types of spatial relations, with regard to efficiency of search. These findings are discussed within the context of the larger literature on early processing of three-dimensional characteristics of visual scenes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)595-606
Number of pages12
JournalPerception and Psychophysics
Issue number4
StatePublished - May 2001
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Sensory Systems
  • General Psychology


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