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Perception. 1984;13(5):619-28.

Detection versus discrimination of visual orientation.


The role of focused attention in vision is examined. Recent theories of attention hypothesize that serial search by focal attention is required for discrimination between different combinations of features. Experiments are reported which show that the mixture of a few (less than five) horizontal and vertical line segments embedded in an aggregate of diagonal line segments can be rapidly counted (also called 'subitizing') by a parallel (preattentive) process, while the discrimination between horizontal and vertical orientation requires serial search by shifting focal attention to each line segment. Thus detecting and counting targets that differ in orientation can be done in parallel by a preattentive process, whereas knowing 'what' the orientation of a target is (horizontal or vertical, ie of a single conspicuous feature) requires a serial search by focal attention.

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