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Task-set switching with natural scenes: Measuring the cost of deploying top-down attention

Walther, Dirk B. and Li, Fei-Fei (2007) Task-set switching with natural scenes: Measuring the cost of deploying top-down attention. Journal of Vision, 7 (11). p. 9. ISSN 1534-7362.

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In many everyday situations, we bias our perception from the top down, based on a task or an agenda. Frequently, this entails shifting attention to a specific attribute of a particular object or scene. To explore the cost of shifting top-down attention to a different stimulus attribute, we adopt the task-set switching paradigm, in which switch trials are contrasted with repeat trials in mixed-task blocks and with single-task blocks. Using two tasks that relate to the content of a natural scene in a gray-level photograph and two tasks that relate to the color of the frame around the image, we were able to distinguish switch costs with and without shifts of attention. We found a significant cost in reaction time of 23–31 ms for switches that require shifting attention to other stimulus attributes, but no significant switch cost for switching the task set within an attribute. We conclude that deploying top-down attention to a different attribute incurs a significant cost in reaction time, but that biasing to a different feature value within the same stimulus attribute is effortless.

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Additional Information:Received October 26, 2006. Accepted June 10, 2007. © 2007 ARVO. We wish to thank Christof Koch, Shinsuke Shimojo, Farshad Moradi, Rufin van Rullen, and Diane Beck for insightful discussions. Lisa Fukui collaborated on early pilot studies. This project was funded by the NSF Engineering Research Center for Neuromorphic Systems Engineering at Caltech, a Sloan-Swartz Pre-doctoral Fellowship and a Beckman Postdoctoral Fellowship to D.B.W., and a Microsoft Research New Faculty Fellowship to L.F.F.
Group:Koch Laboratory (KLAB)
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Sloan-Swartz Pre-doctoral FellowshipUNSPECIFIED
Arnold and Mabel Beckman FoundationUNSPECIFIED
Microsoft ResearchUNSPECIFIED
Subject Keywords:top-down attention ; task switching ; task set ; natural scene categorization ; object detection
Issue or Number:11
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20130816-103302418
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Official Citation:Citation: Walther, D. B., & Fei-Fei, L. (2007). Task-set switching with natural scenes: Measuring the cost of deploying topdown attention. Journal of Vision, 7(11):9, 1–12,, doi:10.1167/7.11.9.
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:40611
Deposited By: KLAB Import
Deposited On:16 Jan 2008 03:06
Last Modified:03 Oct 2019 05:14

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