Attention alters appearance

Marisa Carrasco, Sam Ling, Sarah Read

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Does attention alter appearance? This critical issue, debated for over a century, remains unsettled. From psychophysical evidence that covert attention affects early vision-it enhances contrast sensitivity and spatial resolution-and from neurophysiological evidence that attention increases the neuronal contrast sensitivity (contrast gain), one could infer that attention changes stimulus appearance. Surprisingly, few studies have directly investigated this issue. Here we developed a psychophysical method to directly assess the phenomenological correlates of attention in humans. We show that attention alters appearance; it boosts the apparent stimulus contrast. These behavioral results are consistent with neurophysiological findings suggesting that attention changes the strength of a stimulus by increasing its 'effective contrast' or salience.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)308-313
Number of pages6
JournalNature Neuroscience
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2004

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


Dive into the research topics of 'Attention alters appearance'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this