Rapid attentional selection of non-native stimuli despite perceptual narrowing

To determine whether perceptual narrowing stems from underspecified attentional templates for non-native exemplars, this study used ERP (the N2pc component) and behavioral measures in a visual search task, where the target was either an exemplar (e.g., a specific ape face) or a category (e.g., any ape face). The N2pc component, an ERP marker of early attentional selection emerging at 200 msec poststimulus, is typically modulated by the specificity of the target and, therefore, by the attentional template—the N2pc is larger for specific items versus categories. In two experiments using both human and ape faces (i.e., native and non-native stimuli), we found that perceptual narrowing affects later response selection (i.e., manual RT and accuracy), but not early attentional selection relying on attentional templates (i.e., the N2pc component). Our ERP results show that adults deploy exemplar level attentional templates for non-native stimuli (as well as native stimuli), despite poor downstream behavioral performance.