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Location specific and non-specific effects of suppressed feature singletons on visual processing.

21.21, Saturday, 17-May, 8:15 am - 9:45 am, Talk Room 2
Session: Attention: Control

Joo Huang Tan1, Po-Jang Hsieh1; 1Neuroscience and Behavioral Disorders Program, Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School

It is postulated that in the early stages of visual processing, lower-level features of a scene are extracted automatically to form a topological saliency map for attentional selection. Although several studies have shown that high saliency speeds up attentional selection, whether a salient target (i.e. a feature singleton) can help its region of the visual field reach conscious awareness faster and/or more often remains as yet unknown. Here, we employed a variant of the continuous flash suppression paradigm to suppress a pop-out display (a feature singleton among homogenous distractors) and tested (1) if the subliminal pop-out display reaches awareness faster than a subliminal non-pop-out display, (2) if a feature singleton can enable its region of the visual field reach awareness ahead of other regions, and (3) if the suppressed feature singleton can elicit a location non-specific effect by enabling a region of the visual field where the feature singleton does not exist to reach awareness ahead of other regions. We demonstrate that presence of a salient feature singleton enables a display to reach awareness faster. Additionally, a location’s probability of gaining awareness first does indeed increase significantly when it contains a feature singleton. Interestingly, in some instances, an area of the visual field can still reach awareness faster even when the suppressed feature singleton is located in another location of the visual field. Our findings reveal that salient features facilitate conscious perception in the early stages of attentive processing in both a location specific and non-specific manner.

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