Preattentive processing

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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.
[Healey, 2005]

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
    • Preattentive Processing in Vision, 1985.
    • Features and Objects in Visual Processing, 1986.
  • [Healey, 2005]: Christopher G. Healey, Department of Computer Science, North Carolina State University, Perception in Visualization, 2005.