Recent research shows that, under certain conditions, visual attention is object-based. That is, attention preferentially selects objects in the visual field. These objects are processed, culminating in object recognition. On this formulation, the objects selected by attention are perceptual groups determined by the principles of perceptual organization of Gestalt psychology. These groups are formed independently of attentional processes and conceptual knowledge. This view is not consistent with available data about the visual system, which shows that perceptual organization is sensitive to conceptual information, depends on attentional processes, and infers representations that best explain the visual stimulus. Here, I propose a new account of visual attention that aims to correct these limitations of the Gestalt-based formulation. The nature of the object representations underlying perceptual and attentional mechanisms is discussed. It is proposed that attention and perception interact in an iterative process wherein constraints imposed both by the visual stimulus and an observer’s cognitive set determine the “objects” to which attention is allocated. Thus, visual attention is object based precisely because it is intricately involved in perceptual organization, and not because it selects the output of perceptual organization, as is generally claimed. Experimental results that support the claim that attention influences perceptual organization are reviewed. Finally, the implications for human factors research and the metaphysics of everyday objects are discussed.

Additional Metadata
Keywords object-based attention, perceptual organization, cognitive science, perception
Publisher Department of Cognitive Science
Series Cognitive Science Technical Report Series
Jarmasz, Jerzy P. (2002). Integrating Perceptual Organization and Attention: A New Model for Object-Based Attention. Technical Report 2002-07. Cognitive Science Technical Report Series. Department of Cognitive Science.