Preattentive processing or prefocal processing?

David Navon, Dov Pearl

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The concept of preattentive processing is analyzed and alternative views of it are presented. A basic question is whether processing required for preattentive input selection is qualitatively different from post-selection processing. In order to study this, subjects were presented in one set of conditions with one stimulus at either of two locations, and in another set of conditions, simultaneously with two stimuli. The stimuli could be green or red, or large or small. Subjects were asked to indicate the location (or the color, or the size) of the single stimulus in the single-stimulus conditions, or of a predesignated stimulus (say, the red one) in the dual-stimulus conditions. Responses were generally slower in the dual-stimulus conditions. The increases in reaction time were accounted for by the times it takes to process for response selection the properties by which the target stimulus could be selected, as indicated by the results of two control conditions. The results as well as some other considerations do not support the view that preattentive processing is necessarily of a type that qualitatively differs from post-selection processing.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)245-262
Number of pages18
JournalActa Psychologica
Issue number2-3
StatePublished - Dec 1985

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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