Attention to distinguishing features in object recognition

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study advances the hypothesis that, in the course of object recognition, attention is directed to distinguishing features: visual information that is diagnostic of object identity in a specific context. In five experiments, observers performed an object categorization task involving drawings of fish (Experiments 1–4) and photographs of natural sea animals (Experiment 5). Allocation of attention to distinguishing and non-distinguishing features was examined using primed-matching (Experiment 1) and visual probe (Experiments 2, 4, 5) methods, and manipulated by spatial precuing (Experiment 3). Converging results indicated that in performing the object categorization task, attention was allocated to the distinguishing features in a context-dependent manner, and that such allocation facilitated performance. Based on the view that object recognition, like categorization, is essentially a process of discrimination between probable alternatives, the implications of the findings for the role of attention to distinguishing features in object recognition are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1184-1215
Number of pages32
JournalVisual Cognition
StatePublished - 3 Feb 2015

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Please address all correspondence to Orit Baruch, Department of Psychology and Institute of Information Processing and Decision Making, University of Haifa, Haifa 31905, Israel. E-mail: This research was supported by a grant [grant number 1110/10] from the Israel Science Foundation to Ruth Kimchi and Morris Goldsmith, and comprises part of Orit Baruch’s PhD dissertation, submitted to the University of Haifa. Facilities for conducting the research were provided by the Institute of Information Processing and Decision Making and by the Max Wertheimer Minerva Center for Cognitive Processes and Human Performance.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015, © 2015 Taylor & Francis.


  • Distinguishing features
  • Object categorization
  • Object recognition
  • Visual attention

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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