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Title:Flexibility in object-based selection
Author(s):Lustig, Audrey
Director of Research:Beck, Diane M.
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Beck, Diane M.
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Fabiani, Monica; Heller, Wendy; Lleras, Alejandro; Simons, Daniel J.
Department / Program:Psychology
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):object-based attention
individual differences
visual short-term memory
Abstract:A well established finding in the field of visual attention is that attention tends to operate in an object-based manner (i.e., all features of attended objects, including task-irrelevant ones, tend to be co-selected, e.g., O’Craven et al.). However, recent evidence suggests that object-based attention is not always obligatory; people can be pushed into prioritizing one object feature over another. The goal of the current study was to test the hypothesis that people can attend to multidimensional objects in a flexible manner even when there is no explicit benefit, and that this tendency varies across people. To test this idea, we ran four experiments using a priming of pop-out task in which participants searched for multidimensional targets (containing orientation and color). Orientation was always the target-defining and thus task-relevant feature, while color was always irrelevant to the task; importantly, this manipulation allowed us to measure the separate contributions of task-relevant and task-irrelevant features to selection (as measured by priming effects). We also predicted that people would vary in the extent to which they process the task-irrelevant feature, and that this variation could be predicted by individual differences in working memory capacity, executive functioning, or personality. Although we found significant priming color independent of orientation in all four experiments, we only observed significant orientation priming in Experiment 1. We also found a negative relationship between visual short-term memory (VSTM) capacity and consecutive priming effects for color in Experiment 1. Additionally, extraversion and neuroticism were significant predictors of overall color priming in Experiment 2. Taken together, our results indicate that limits in VSTM may increase susceptibility to recent visual trends, causing people to attribute importance to visual patterns that are systematic but meaningless. Additionally, we demonstrate that people can select objects in a flexible manner and use whichever feature is easiest to select to guide their attention, regardless of task-relevance.
Issue Date:2012-09-18
Rights Information:Copyright 2012 Audrey G. Lustig
Date Available in IDEALS:2012-09-18
Date Deposited:2012-08

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