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The feature integration theory, developed by Treisman and Gelade since the early 1980s has been one of the most influential psychological models of human visual attention until recent years. According to Treisman, in a first step to visual processing, several primary visual features are processed and represented with separate feature maps that are later integrated in a saliency map that can be accessed in order to direct attention to the most conspicuous areas.
Treisman distinguishes two kinds of visual search tasks, feature search and conjunction search. Feature search can be performed fast and pre-attentively for targets defined by primitive features. Conjunction search is the serial search for targets defined by a conjunction of primitive features. It is much slower and requires conscious attention. She concluded from many experiments that color, orientation, and intensity are primitive features, for which feature search can be performed.
It was widely speculated, the saliency map could be located in early visual cortical areas, e.g. the Primary Visual Cortex (V1), however this is controversial. Wolfe's popular Guided Search Paradigm has many similarities to the feature integration model.
- Treisman, A., “Features and objects: the fourteenth Bartlett Memorial Lecture”. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 40A, 201-236, 1988
- Treisman, A. M. and Gelade, G., “A feature-integration theory of attention”, Cognitive Psychology, Vol. 12, No. 1, pp. 97-136, 1980
- Treisman, Anne M., and Nancy G.Kanwisher, "Perceiving visually presented objects: recognition, awareness, and modularity," Current Opinion in Neurobiology, 8 (1998), pp 218-226
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