Feature-based attention involuntarily and simultaneously improves visual performance across locations

Alex L. White, Marisa Carrasco

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Selective attention can selectively increase sensitivity to particular visual features in order to prioritize behaviorally relevant stimuli. Moreover, neural responses to attended feature values are boosted even at ignored locations. We provide behavioral evidence for involuntary and simultaneous effects of this "global" feature-based attention on visual performance. Observers were cued to attend to dots moving in a particular direction at one location (the primary task), while discriminating which of two groups of moving dots on the other side of the screen contained coherent motion (the secondary task). An analogous experiment tested selective attention to orientation. The secondary tasks did not require observers to discriminate or selectively attend to the particular feature values present. Nonetheless, sensitivity was highest when the direction or orientation happened to match the one cued in the primary task. By comparing performance to a neutral condition, we revealed more enhancement of attended feature values than suppression of others.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of vision
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2011


  • Attention
  • Feature-based attention
  • Motion-2D
  • Spatial vision

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ophthalmology
  • Sensory Systems


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