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J Exp Psychol Hum Percept Perform. 2013 Oct;39(5):1433-42. doi: 10.1037/a0031046. Epub 2012 Dec 17.

Qualitative differences in the guidance of attention during single-color and multiple-color visual search: behavioral and electrophysiological evidence.

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Department of Psychological Sciences.


To find out whether attentional target selection can be effectively guided by top-down task sets for multiple colors, we measured behavioral and ERP markers of attentional target selection in an experiment where participants had to identify color-defined target digits that were accompanied by a single gray distractor object in the opposite visual field. In the One Color task, target color was constant. In the Two Color task, targets could have one of two equally likely colors. Color-guided target selection was less efficient during multiple-color relative to single-color search, and this was reflected by slower response times and delayed N2pc components. Nontarget-color items that were presented in half of all trials captured attention and gained access to working memory when participants searched for two colors, but were excluded from attentional processing in the One Color task. Results demonstrate qualitative differences in the guidance of attentional target selection between single-color and multiple-color visual search. They suggest that top-down attentional control can be applied much more effectively when it is based on a single feature-specific attentional template.

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