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Evidence against global attention filters selective for absolute bar-orientation in human vision.

  • Author(s): Inverso, Matthew
  • Sun, Peng
  • Chubb, Charles
  • Wright, Charles E
  • Sperling, George
  • et al.

The finding that an item of type A pops out from an array of distractors of type B typically is taken to support the inference that human vision contains a neural mechanism that is activated by items of type A but not by items of type B. Such a mechanism might be expected to yield a neural image in which items of type A produce high activation and items of type B low (or zero) activation. Access to such a neural image might further be expected to enable accurate estimation of the centroid of an ensemble of items of type A intermixed with to-be-ignored items of type B. Here, it is shown that as the number of items in stimulus displays is increased, performance in estimating the centroids of horizontal (vertical) items amid vertical (horizontal) distractors degrades much more quickly and dramatically than does performance in estimating the centroids of white (black) items among black (white) distractors. Together with previous findings, these results suggest that, although human vision does possess bottom-up neural mechanisms sensitive to abrupt local changes in bar-orientation, and although human vision does possess and utilize top-down global attention filters capable of selecting multiple items of one brightness or of one color from among others, it cannot use a top-down global attention filter capable of selecting multiple bars of a given absolute orientation and filtering bars of the opposite orientation in a centroid task.

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