Selective attention can enhance the processing of attended features across the entire visual field. Attention also spreads within objects, enhancing all internal locations and task‐irrelevant features of selected objects. Here, we examine the extent to which attentional enhancement of a feature spreads across attended and unattended objects. Two fully overlapping counter‐rotating bicolored surfaces of light and dark random dots were presented on a gray background of intermediate luminance. This stimulus creates a percept of two separate semitransparent surfaces and allows the measurement of feature‐ and object‐based selections while controlling spatial attention. On each trial, human participants attended to a subset of dots defined by feature (luminance polarity) and object (surface) in order to detect brief episodes of radial motion while ignoring any events in the unattended groups of dots. Attentional selection was assessed by means of steady‐state visual evoked potentials (SSVEPs) and behavioral measures. SSVEP amplitudes recorded at medial occipital electrode sites were modulated both by surface‐based and luminance polarity‐based selection in a manner consistent with independent multiplicative enhancement of attentional effects in different dimensions in early visual cortex. This finding supports the view that feature‐based attention spreads across object boundaries, at least at an early stage of processing. However, SSVEPs elicited at more lateral electrode sites showed a hierarchical pattern of selection, potentially reflecting the binding of surface‐defining features with luminance features to enable surface‐based attention.
- feature-based attention
- object-based attention
- steady-state visual evoked potentials
- SELECTIVE ATTENTION