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Percept Psychophys. 1991 Aug;50(2):184-93.

Cross-dimensional perceptual selectivity.

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  • 1TNO Institute for Perception, Soesterberg, The Netherlands.


Three visual search experiments tested whether top-down selectivity toward particular stimulus dimensions is possible during preattentive parallel search. Subjects viewed multielement displays in which two salient items, each unique in a different dimension--that is, color and intensity (Experiment 1) or color and form (Experiments 2 and 3)--were simultaneously present. One of the dimensions defined the target; the other dimension served as distractor. The results indicate that when search is performed in parallel, top-down selectivity is not possible. These findings suggest that preattentive parallel search is strongly automatic, because it satisfies both the load-insensitivity and the unintentionality criteria of automaticity.

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