A salient event in the visual field tends to attract attention and the eyes. To account for the effects of salience on visual selection, models generally assume that the human visual system continuously holds information concerning the relative salience of objects in the visual field. Here we show that salience in fact drives vision only during the short time interval immediately following the onset of a visual scene. In a saccadic target-selection task, human performance in making an eye movement to the most salient element in a display was accurate when response latencies were short, but was at chance when response latencies were long. In a manual discrimination task, performance in making a judgment of salience was more accurate with brief than with long display durations. These results suggest that salience is represented in the visual system only briefly after a visual image enters the brain.
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