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Attention and awareness are often considered to be related. Some forms of attention can, however, facilitate the processing of stimuli that remain unseen. It is unclear whether this dissociation extends beyond selection on the basis of primitive properties, such as spatial location, to situations in which there are more complex bases for attentional selection. The experiment described here shows that attentional selection at the level of objects can take place without giving rise to awareness of those objects. Pairs of objects were continually masked, which rendered them invisible to participants performing a cued-target-discrimination task. When the cue and target appeared within the same object, discrimination was faster than when they appeared in different objects at the same spatial separation. Participants reported no awareness of the objects and were unable to detect them in a signal-detection task. Object-based attention, therefore, is not sufficient for object awareness.

Original publication




Journal article


Psychol Sci

Publication Date





836 - 843


visual attention, visual perception, Adult, Attention, Awareness, Discrimination, Psychological, Female, Humans, Male, Signal Detection, Psychological, Space Perception, Young Adult