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.
- visual attention
- steady-state visual evoked potential
- feature selection