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Preattentive processing of visual information is performed automatically on the entire visual field detecting basic features of objects in the display. Such basic features include colors, closure, line ends, contrast, tilt, curvature and size. These simple features are extracted from the visual display in the preattentive system and later joined in the focused attention system into coherent objects. Preattentive processing is done quickly, effortlessly and in parallel without any attention being focused on the display
Typically, tasks that can be performed on large multi-element displays in less than 200 to 250 milliseconds (msec) are considered preattentive.
For many years vision researchers have been investigating how the human visual system analyses images. An important initial result was the discovery of a limited set of visual properties that are detected very rapidly and accurately by the low-level visual system. These properties were initially called preattentive, since their detection seemed to precede focused attention. We now know that attention plays a critical role in what we see, even at this early stage of vision. The term preattentive continues to be used, however, since it conveys an intuitive notion of the speed and ease with which these properties are identified. Typically, tasks that can be performed on large multi-element displays in less than 200 to 250 milliseconds (msec) are considered preattentive. Eye movements take at least 200 msec to initiate, and random locations of the elements in the display ensure that attention cannot be prefocused on any particular location, yet viewers report that these tasks can be completed with very little effort. This suggests that certain information in the display is processed in parallel by the low-level visual system.
Taking advantage of preattentive processing in information visualization can greatly improve intuitiveness of representations yielding in a faster and more natural way of acquiring information.
- A. Treisman
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- [Healey, 2005]: Christopher G. Healey, Department of Computer Science, North Carolina State University, Perception in Visualization, 2005.
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