Feature-based attention resolves depth ambiguity

D. Yu*, B. Levinthal, S. L. Franconeri

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Perceiving the world around us requires that we resolve ambiguity. This process is often studied in the lab using ambiguous figures whose structures can be interpreted in multiple ways. One class of figures contains ambiguity in its depth relations, such that either of two surfaces could be seen as being the “front” of an object. Previous research suggests that selectively attending to a given location on such objects can bias the perception of that region as the front. This study asks whether selectively attending to a distributed feature can also bias that region toward the front. Participants viewed a structure-from-motion display of a rotating cylinder that could be perceived as rotating clockwise or counterclockwise (as imagined viewing from the top), depending on whether a set of red or green moving dots were seen as being in the front. A secondary task encouraged observers to globally attend to either red or green. Results from both Experiment 1 and 2 showed that the dots on the cylinder that shared the attended feature, and its corresponding surface, were more likely to be seen as being in the front, as measured by participants’ clockwise versus counterclockwise percept reports. Feature-based attention, like location-based attention, is capable of biasing competition among potential interpretations of figures with ambiguous structure in depth.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)804-809
Number of pages6
JournalPsychonomic Bulletin and Review
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 1 2017


  • Visual perception
  • Visual selective attention

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)

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