The role of attentional priority and saliency in determining capacity limits in enumeration and visual working memory

David Melcher, Manuela Piazza

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Many common tasks require us to individuate in parallel two or more objects out of a complex scene. Although the mechanisms underlying our abilities to count the number of items, remember the visual properties of objects and to make saccadic eye movements towards targets have been studied separately, each of these tasks require selection of individual objects and shows a capacity limit. Here we show that a common factor-salience-determines the capacity limit in the various tasks. We manipulated bottom-up salience (visual contrast) and top-down salience (task relevance) in enumeration and visual memory tasks. As one item became increasingly salient, the subitizing range was reduced and memory performance for all other less-salient items was decreased. Overall, the pattern of results suggests that our abilities to enumerate and remember small groups of stimuli are grounded in an attentional priority or salience map which represents the location of important items.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere29296
JournalPloS one
Volume6
Issue number12
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 16 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • General

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