Perceptual benefits of objecthood

Marnix Naber*, Thomas A. Carlson, Frans A J Verstraten, Wolfgang Einhäuser

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Object-based attention facilitates the processing of features that form the object. Two hypotheses are conceivable for how object-based attention is deployed to an object's features: first, the object is attended by selecting its features; alternatively, a configuration of features as such is attended by selecting the object representation they form. Only for the latter alternative, the perception of a feature configuration as entity ("objecthood") is a necessary condition for object-based attention. Disentangling the two alternatives requires the comparison of identical feature configurations that induce the perception of an object in one condition ("bound") and do not do so in another condition ("unbound"). We used an ambiguous stimulus, whose percept spontaneously switches between bound and unbound, while the stimulus itself remains unchanged. We tested discrimination on the boundary of the diamond as well as detection of probes inside and outside the diamond. We found discrimination performance to be increased if features were perceptually bound into an object. Furthermore, detection performance was higher within and lower outside the bound object as compared to the unbound configuration. Consequently, the facilitation of processing by object-based attention requires objecthood, that is, a unified internal representation of an "object"-not a mere collection of features.

Original languageEnglish
Article number8
Pages (from-to)1-9
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Vision
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Attention
  • Detection/discrimination
  • Object recognition
  • Perceptual organization
  • Visual cognition


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