The Role of Dimension Relevance in Features’ Access to Response-Selection Mechanisms

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It is widely agreed that attending to a stimulus entails that all its features are processed. However, whether all these features are granted access to response-selection mechanisms remains a debated issue. Some authors suggest that all the features of the attended object affect response selection, irrespective of their relevance to the task at hand, whereas others claim that only its currently relevant features do. Yet others suggest that irrelevant features of an attended object affect response selection only if this object is the target, that is, only if it is selected for action. The results from 3 experiments show that responses associated with an attended object’s irrelevant dimension interfered with response selection even when this object was not selected for action, but to a lesser extent than the responses associated with its relevant dimension. Our findings also show that interference from the irrelevant dimension can be masked when the response codes associated with the relevant and irrelevant dimensions compete. We suggest a parsimonious account of the findings from the extant literature that obviates the need to postulate a qualitative distinction between attention and selection for action.

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