Attentional Requirements on Feature Search Are Modulated by Stimulus Properties

J.F. Ettwig, A.W. Bronkhorst

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


We report a series of dual-task experiments, in which a rapid serial visual presentation (RSVP) task was combined with a visual search task. Orientation, motion, and color were used as the defining target features in the search task. Lag between target onsets was manipulated and interference between the two tasks was quantified by measuring detection scores for the search task as a function of lag. While simultaneous performance of an orientation detection task with an RSVP letter identification task resulted in a performance decrease for lags up to 320 ms, no such decrease was detected for highly salient motion- and color-defined targets. Subsequently, detectability of the motion and color feature was matched to that of the orientation-feature resulting in the reintroduction of a (smaller) performance decrease, but only during simultaneous performance (lag 0 ms). The results suggest that there are two causes for the impaired search performance occurring when a feature search task is combined with an RSVP task. The first is short-lasting interference probably due to attentional competition; the second, which plays a role only when targets for both tasks share features, is interference that may be attributed to a central processing bottleneck. © 2013 Ettwig, Bronkhorst.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e53093
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2013


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