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Color mechanisms used in selecting stimuli for attention and making discriminations

  • ALLEN L. NAGY (a1), KELLY E. NERIANI (a1) and TRAVIS L. YOUNG (a1)


Previous work (Nagy & Thomas, 2003) showed that signals in different Cardinal color mechanisms could be combined to facilitate search for a color target. Further investigation (Nagy et al., 2003) suggested that signals in one Cardinal color mechanism were used to select a subset of stimuli to be attended, while signals in second Cardinal mechanism were used to discriminate the stimuli within the selected subset. In the studies described below, we asked if observers could use color mechanisms tuned to directions other than the Cardinal directions to select and discriminate stimuli. Observers searched for a single target stimulus that differed in chromaticity from nine distractor stimuli. A two-alternative forced-choice procedure was used to estimate thresholds. Results were consistent with the hypothesis that color mechanisms tuned to many different directions in color space mediate discrimination, but suggest that only signals in Cardinal mechanisms can be used to select stimuli for attention.

Results imply that the selection of stimuli for attention on the basis of color may be mediated at the level of the lateral geniculate nucleus (LGN).


Corresponding author

Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Allen L. Nagy, Psychology Department, Wright State University, Dayton, OH 45435, USA. E-mail:


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