Feature-based attention enhances performance by increasing response gain

Katrin Herrmann, David J. Heeger, Marisa Carrasco

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Covert spatial attention can increase contrast sensitivity either by changes in contrast gain or by changes in response gain, depending on the size of the attention field and the size of the stimulus (. Herrmann et al., 2010), as predicted by the normalization model of attention (. Reynolds & Heeger, 2009). For feature-based attention, unlike spatial attention, the model predicts only changes in response gain, regardless of whether the featural extent of the attention field is small or large. To test this prediction, we measured the contrast dependence of feature-based attention. Observers performed an orientation-discrimination task on a spatial array of grating patches. The spatial locations of the gratings were varied randomly so that observers could not attend to specific locations. Feature-based attention was manipulated with a 75% valid and 25% invalid pre-cue, and the featural extent of the attention field was manipulated by introducing uncertainty about the upcoming grating orientation. Performance accuracy was better for valid than for invalid pre-cues, consistent with a change in response gain, when the featural extent of the attention field was small (low uncertainty) or when it was large (high uncertainty) relative to the featural extent of the stimulus. These results for feature-based attention clearly differ from results of analogous experiments with spatial attention, yet both support key predictions of the normalization model of attention.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)10-20
Number of pages11
JournalVision research
StatePublished - Dec 1 2012


  • Attention models
  • Contrast
  • Contrast gain
  • Feature-based attention
  • Orientation discrimination
  • Response gain

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ophthalmology
  • Sensory Systems


Dive into the research topics of 'Feature-based attention enhances performance by increasing response gain'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this