THE ROLE OF ATTENTION IN PROCESSING ORGANIZED AND UNORGANIZED MULTI-OBJECT DISPLAYS
KLEISS, JAMES ALAN
Doctor of Philosophy
Recent attention research indicates that attention must focus narrowly on the location of a stimulus before that stimulus can be identified. Focal attention has also been shown to play an important role in the process of localizing and integrating the basic features of stimuli. Although this suggests that little information is available without focal attention, there is picture perception research which suggests that important information is available by means of a global process that is sensitive to the meaningful relationships that exist among objects in scenes. In an attempt to reconcile this discrepancy, attention was focused on a target object while the organization of the surrounding background objects was varied. In Experiment 1, there was general interference from the presence of background objects in the visual field, but no indication that the identities or spatial organization of those objects affected performance. In Experiments 2 and 3, the objects were moved closer together to form more coherent displays. In these two experiments, there was evidence that both the identities and the spatial organization of background objects affected performance. The effects generally persisted even after attention was focused on the target. The processing of unorganized background objects was more affected by attentional manipulations than the processing of organized background objects suggesting that information in organized scenes is, at least in part, available by means of a process that is independent of focal attention.