Automatic object-based spatial selection depends on the distribution of sustained attention

Ema Shamasdin Bidiwala, Miranda Scolari

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Several space-based and object-based attention studies suggest these selection mechanisms may be voluntarily deployed, depending on task parameters and the attentional scope of the observer. Here, we sought to elucidate factors related to involuntary deployment of object-mediated space-based attention through two experiments. Experiment 1 used a modified flanker task where a target and nearby distractor were presented within the same or different object frames, such that an object-based attentional spread should be detrimental to performance. Results showed the presence of a flanker effect with no significant difference in magnitude between grouping conditions, indicating participants may have uniformly used a diffused attentional spotlight regardless of object segmentation. In a second experiment, we manipulated the extent of the observer’s sustained attentional scope via an inducer task to determine whether object-based selection depends on the initial spotlight size. The results revealed object-based effects solely when attention narrowly encompassed the target, but not when it was widened to include the distracting flanker. This suggests the deployment of object-based attention may occur when spatial attention is initially focused narrowly. Because selecting the whole object frame directly interfered with task goals, we conclude that object-based attention may not always fully conform to relevant task goals or operate in a goal-oriented manner. We discuss these results in the context of existing literature while proposing a reconciliation of previously inconsistent findings of object-based selection.

Original languageEnglish
JournalAttention, Perception, and Psychophysics
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2021

Keywords

  • Flanker task
  • Inducer task
  • Object-based attention
  • Space-based attention
  • Spatial spotlight

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