Experiment 2 investigated (1) the level of representation achieved by the unattended distractor and (2) whether the inhibition found in experiment 1 is applied to the representations of dis-tractors per se or to their access to response systems. To understand how distractors may compete with target faces for responses, let us consider the nature of the task. Target faces are processed in order to decide whether they are the same individual or not. In order to determine whether two faces are the same or different, it is suggested that observers use fine-scale structural information present in the eyes, nose, and mouth. Information about these differences is specified by the contents of the high-spatial-frequency end of the spectrum (Fiorentini et al. 1983; Lehmkule et al. 1980). In experiment 2 the fine facial features of the distractors were obscured by a checkerboard pattern (figure 11.5).
Three logical possibilities exist: (1) If obscuring the high-spatial-frequency information of the distractors renders a sufficiently detailed internal representation to match that of the complete target face on the subsequent trial, then an equivalent inhibitory effect is expected. (2) However, the significant reduction in physical overlap between distractors and targets could render a poorer match between distractor and target representations, thus reducing the inhibitory effect. (3) The inhibition found in experiment 1 is very specific to the visual information required by the task. Thus one might predict a complete lack of inhibition because the dis-tractors do not contain the information that is being used to compare the targets (Tipper et al. 1994).
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