Feature binding in attentive tracking of distinct objects

Tal Makovski, Yuhong V. Jiang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


To what degree can attentive tracking of objects' motion benefit from increased distinctiveness in the objects' surface features? To address this question, we asked observers to track four moving digits among a total of eight moving digits. By varying the distinctiveness of the digits' colour and identity, we found that tracking performance improved when the eight objects were all distinct in colour, digit identity, or both, compared to when the eight objects were identical. However, when the eight objects were distinct in a combination of colour and digit but targets and nontargets shared colour or digit identity, performance enhancement was not observed. Four follow-up experiments extended the range of the feature dimensions generating the effect and ruled out alternative strategic accounts. We conclude that surface features can be used to enhance tracking performance. This enhancement is feature based, revealing a limited degree of feature binding in attentive tracking.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)180-194
Number of pages15
JournalVisual Cognition
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - 2009
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Please address all correspondence to Tal Makovski, N218 Elliott Hall, 75 East River Road, Minneapolis, MN 55455, USA. E-mail: tal.makovski@gmail.com This research was supported in part by NSF 0733764 and NIH 071788. We thank Leah Watson, Khena Swallow, Carrick Williams, Todd Horowitz, and James Brockmole for comments and suggestions.


  • Attentive tracking
  • Feature and location binding
  • Multiple-object tracking


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