Hierarchical navigation of visual attention: Orienting and focusing within and between hierarchically structured objects

Menahem Yeari, Morris Goldsmith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study explored the dynamics of attentional navigation between two hierarchically structured objects. Three experiments examined a Hierarchical Attentional Navigation (HAN) hypothesis, by which attentional navigation between two visual stimuli is constrained to follow the path linking the two stimuli in a hierarchical object-based representation. Presented with two adjacent compound-letter objects on each trial, participants successively identified the letter(s) at the specified hierarchical level (global or local) of the origin and destination object, respectively: local-local (Experiment 1), global-local (Experiment 2a), or local-global (Experiment 2b). The organizational complexity of the objects (2-level structure vs. 3-level structure) and their global size (large vs. small) were orthogonally manipulated. Results were generally consistent with the HAN hypothesis: overall response latency was positively related to the number of intervening levels of hierarchical object structure linking the two target levels. Hierarchical navigation was also suggested by the pattern of global size effects. The usefulness of the HAN framework for interpreting these and related findings in attention research is discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)353-370
Number of pages18
JournalExperimental Psychology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2015

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by Grant 1195/06 from the Israel Science Foundation to Morris Goldsmith, and comprises part of Menahem Yeari''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. We thank Gili Cohavi for help in setting up and running the experiments.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 Hogrefe Publishing.


  • Global-local paradigm
  • Object-based attention
  • Orienting and focusing
  • Perceptual organization
  • Visual attention

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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