Selective attention to color and location: An analysis with event-related brain potentials

Steven A. Hillyard*, Thomas F. Münte

*Corresponding author for this work
444 Citations (Scopus)


Event-related brain potentials (ERPs) were recorded from subjects as they attended to colored bars that were flashed in random order to the left or right of fixation. The task was to detect slightly smaller target bars having a specified color (red or blue) and location (left or right). The ERP elicited by stimuli at an attended location contained a sequence of phasic components (P122/N168/N264) that was highly distinct from the sequence associated with selection on the basis of color (N150-350/P199/P400-500). These findings suggested that spatially focused attention involves a gating or modulation of evoked neural activity in the visual pathways, whereas color selection is manifested by an endogenous ERP complex. When the stimulus locations were widely separated, the ERP signs of color selection were hierarchically dependent upon the prior selection for spatial location. In contrast, when the stimulus locations were adjacent to one another, the ERP signs of color selection predominated over those of location selection. These results are viewed as supporting "early selection" theories of attention that specify the rejection of irrelevant inputs prior to the completion of perceptual processing. The implications of ERP data for theories of multidimensional stimulus processing are considered.

Original languageEnglish
JournalPerception & Psychophysics
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)185-198
Number of pages14
Publication statusPublished - 01.03.1984

Research Areas and Centers

  • Academic Focus: Center for Brain, Behavior and Metabolism (CBBM)


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