Allocation of attention according to informativeness in visual recognition

David Navon, Baruch Margalit

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In visual identification, is visual attention attracted to more informative elements, i.e. to elements which are more critical for identification? This question was investigated by having subjects detect some visual probes while performing a primary task that involved identification. The probes were located in the neighbourhood of highly or poorly informative parts of the identified stimuli. Three experiments that followed this rationale were conducted. In Experiment I, it was found that when subjects searched for a target letter in lines of identical background letters, they detected more dots near the feature that distinguished between the target and the background letters. In Experiment II, it was found that native Hebrew-speaking subjects detected more lines above a letter that distinguished between two English words. Experiment III showed that the effect was reduced but did not vanish when spatial uncertainty was introduced. On the whole, the data are interpreted as suggesting that more attention may indeed be directed to informative regions, and that this effect cannot be solely attributed to retinal factors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)497-512
Number of pages16
JournalQuarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology Section A: Human Experimental Psychology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 May 1983

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by a grant from the Ford Foundation received through the Israel Foundations Trustees and a grant from the Israel Commission of Basic Research. Experiment I was conducted by the second author under the supervision of the first author. The other experiments were conducted by the first author. Preparation of this manuscript was done while the first author was visiting at the Cognitive Psychophysiology Laboratory at the Department of Psychology of University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Thanks are due to Michal Sukenik, Elia Rosenberg, Eileen Harman, Nira Arzi and Ruchama Kravitz for their help in all phases of experimental work.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • General Psychology


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