The head of the table: Marking the "front" of an object is tightly linked with selection

Yangqing Xu*, Steven L. Franconeri

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Objects in the world do not have a surface that can be objectively labeled the "front." We impose this designation on one surface of an object according to several cues, including which surface is associated with the most task-relevant information or the direction of motion of an object. However, when these cues are competing, weak, or absent, we can also flexibly assign one surface as the front. One possibility is that this assignment is guided by the location of the "spotlight" of selection, where the selected region becomes the front. Here we used an electrophysiological correlate to show a direct temporal link between object structure assignments and the spatial locus of selection. We found that when human participants viewed a shape whose front and back surfaces were ambiguous, seeing a given surface as front was associated with selectively attending to that location. In Experiment 1, this pattern occurred during directed rapid (every 1 s) switches in structural percepts. In Experiment 2, this pattern occurred during spontaneous reversals, from 900 ms before to 600 ms after the reported percept. These results suggest that the distribution of selective attention might guide the organization of object structure.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1408-1412
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jan 25 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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