Visual Feature Integration of Three Attributes in Stimulus-Response Mapping Is Distinct From That of Two

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In the human visual system, different attributes of an object are processed separately and are thought to be then temporarily bound by attention into an integrated representation to produce a specific response. However, if such representations existed in the brain for arbitrary multi-attribute objects, a combinatorial explosion problem would be unavoidable. Here, we show that attention may bind features of different attributes only in pairs and that bound feature pairs, rather than integrated object representations, are associated with responses for unfamiliar objects. We found that in a mapping task from three-attribute stimuli to responses, presenting three attributes in pairs (two attributes in each window) did not significantly complicate feature integration and response selection when the stimuli were not very familiar. We also found that repeated presentation of the same triple conjunctions significantly improved performance on the stimulus-response task when the correct responses were determined by the combination of three attributes, but this familiarity effect was not observed when the response could be determined by two attributes. These findings indicate that integration of three or more attributes is a distinct process from that of two, requiring long-term learning or some serial process. This suggests that integrated object representations are not formed or are formed only for a limited number of very familiar objects, which resolves the computational difficulty of the binding problem.


  • Frontiers in Neuroscience

    Frontiers in Neuroscience (13), 35, 2019-02



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