Color-selective attention need not be mediated by spatial attention

Søren K Andersen, Matthias M Müller, Steven A Hillyard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

74 Citations (Scopus)


It is well-established that attention can select stimuli for preferential processing on the basis of non-spatial features such as color, orientation, or direction of motion. Evidence is mixed, however, as to whether feature-selective attention acts by increasing the signal strength of to-be-attended features irrespective of their spatial locations or whether it acts by guiding the spotlight of spatial attention to locations containing the relevant feature. To address this question, we designed a task in which feature-selective attention could not be mediated by spatial selection. Participants observed a display of intermingled dots of two colors, which rapidly and unpredictably changed positions, with the task of detecting brief intervals of reduced luminance of 20% of the dots of one or the other color. Both behavioral indices and electrophysiological measures of steady-state visual evoked potentials showed selectively enhanced processing of the attended-color items. The results demonstrate that feature-selective attention produces a sensory gain enhancement at early levels of the visual cortex that occurs without mediation by spatial attention.
Original languageEnglish
Article number2
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Vision
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 8 Jun 2009


  • visual attention
  • steady-state visual evoked potential
  • feature selection
  • color


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