, Volume 56, Issue 2, pp 183-197

Perceptual load as a major determinant of the locus of selection in visual attention


In this paper, we propose that the debate concerning the locus of attentional selection can be resolved by specifying the conditions under which early selection is possible. In the first part, we present a theoretical discussion that integrates aspects from structural and capacity approaches to attention and suggest that perceptual load is a major factor in determining the locus of selection. In the second part, we present a literature review that examines the conditions influencing the processing of irrelevant information. This review supports the conclusion that a clear physical distinction between relevant and irrelevant information is not sufficient to prevent irrelevant processing; early selection also requires that the perceptual load of the task be sufficiently high to exceed the upper limit of available attentional resources.

Parts of this paper appeared in the unpublished dissertation of the first author.