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Accepted manuscript

Visual Attention in Crisis

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  03 May 2024

Ruth Rosenholtz*
Department of Brain & Cognitive Sciences, CSAIL, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA,,


Research on visual attention has uncovered significant anomalies, and some traditional methods may have inadvertently probed peripheral vision rather than attention. Vision science needs to rethink visual attention from the ground up. To facilitate this, for a year I banned the word “attention” in my lab. This constraint promoted a more precise discussion of attention-related phenomena, capacity limits, and mechanisms. The insights gained lead me to challenge attributing to “attention” those phenomena that can be better explained by perceptual processes, are predictable by an ideal observer model, or that otherwise may not require an additional mechanism. I enumerate a set of critical phenomena in need of explanation. Finally, I propose a unifying theory in which all perception results from performing a task, and tasks face a limit on complexity.

Target Article
Copyright © The Author(s), 2024. Published by Cambridge University Press

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