Biasing Allocations of Attention via Selective Weighting of Saliency Signals: Behavioral and Neuroimaging Evidence for the Dimension-Weighting Account

  • Heinrich René LiesefeldEmail author
  • Anna M. Liesefeld
  • Stefan Pollmann
  • Hermann J. Müller
Part of the Current Topics in Behavioral Neurosciences book series (CTBN, volume 41)


Objects that stand out from the environment tend to be of behavioral relevance, and the visual system is tuned to preferably process these salient objects by allocating focused attention. However, attention is not just passively (bottom-up) driven by stimulus features, but previous experiences and task goals exert strong biases toward attending or actively ignoring salient objects. The core and eponymous assumption of the dimension-weighting account (DWA) is that these top-down biases are not as flexible as one would like them to be; rather, they are subject to dimensional constraints. In particular, DWA assumes that people can often not search for objects that have a particular feature but only for objects that stand out from the environment (i.e., that are salient) in a particular feature dimension. We review behavioral and neuroimaging evidence for such dimensional constraints in three areas: search history, voluntary target enhancement, and distractor handling. The first two have been the focus of research on DWA since its inception and the latter the subject of our more recent research. Additionally, we discuss various challenges to the DWA and its relation to other prominent theories on top-down influences in visual search.


Dimension weighting Priority map Review Task history Visual search 



This work was supported by German Research Foundation (DFG) grants MU 773/14-1 and MU 773/16-1 (to H.J.M.), Open Research Area grant DFG PO 548/16-1, and DFG grant CRC779/A4 (to S.P.), by LMU Munich’s Institutional Strategy LMUexcellent within the framework of the German Excellence Initiative (to H.J.M. and H.R.L.) and by the Graduate School of Systemic Neurosciences, Munich Center for Neurosciences – Brain & Mind (to H.R.L.).


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Heinrich René Liesefeld
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Anna M. Liesefeld
    • 1
  • Stefan Pollmann
    • 3
  • Hermann J. Müller
    • 1
    • 4
  1. 1.Department PsychologieLudwig-Maximilians-UniversitätMunichGermany
  2. 2.Graduate School of Systemic Neurosciences, Ludwig-Maximilians-UniversitätMunichGermany
  3. 3.Institute of Psychology and Center for Behavioral Brain Sciences, Otto von Guericke UniversityMagdeburgGermany
  4. 4.Department of Psychological SciencesBirkbeck College, University of LondonLondonUK

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