Using a filtering task to measure the spatial extent of selective attention

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The spatial extent of attention was investigated by measuring sensitivity to stimuli at to-be-ignored locations. Observers detected a stimulus at a cued location (target), while ignoring otherwise identical stimuli at nearby locations (foils). Only an attentional cue distinguished target from foil. Several experiments varied the contrast and separation of targets and foils. Two theories of selection were compared: contrast gain and a version of attention switching called an all-or-none mixture model. Results included large effects of separation, rejection of the contrast gain model, and the measurement of the size and profile of the spatial extent of attention.

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