A typical scene contains many different objects, but the capacity of the visual system to process multiple stimuli at a given time is limited. Thus, attentional mechanisms are required to select relevant objects from among the many objects competing for visual processing. Evidence from functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in humans showed that when multiple stimuli are present simultaneously in the visual field, their cortical representations within the object recognition pathway interact in a competitive, suppressive fashion. Directing attention to one of the stimuli counteracts the suppressive influence of nearby stimuli. This mechanism may serve to filter out irrelevant information in cluttered visual scenes.
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