Biasing Allocations of Attention via Selective Weighting of Saliency Signals: Behavioral and Neuroimaging Evidence for the Dimension-Weighting Account

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Abstract

Objects that stand out from the environment tend to be of behavioral relevance, and the visual system is tuned to preferably process these salient objects by allocating focused attention. However, attention is not just passively (bottom-up) driven by stimulus features, but previous experiences and task goals exert strong biases toward attending or actively ignoring salient objects. The core and eponymous assumption of the dimension-weighting account (DWA) is that these top-down biases are not as flexible as one would like them to be; rather, they are subject to dimensional constraints. In particular, DWA assumes that people can often not search for objects that have a particular feature but only for objects that stand out from the environment (i.e., that are salient) in a particular feature dimension. We review behavioral and neuroimaging evidence for such dimensional constraints in three areas: search history, voluntary target enhancement, and distractor handling. The first two have been the focus of research on DWA since its inception and the latter the subject of our more recent research. Additionally, we discuss various challenges to the DWA and its relation to other prominent theories on top-down influences in visual search.

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Liesefeld, H. R., Liesefeld, A. M., Pollmann, S., & Müller, H. J. (2019). Biasing Allocations of Attention via Selective Weighting of Saliency Signals: Behavioral and Neuroimaging Evidence for the Dimension-Weighting Account. In Current Topics in Behavioral Neurosciences (Vol. 41, pp. 87–113). Springer. https://doi.org/10.1007/7854_2018_75

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