Feature Integration Theory
Feature Integration Theory is a perceptual and attentional theory that explains how an individual combines pieces of observable information about an object in order to form a complete perception of the object. This theory was developed by Gelade and Treisman and focuses on the visual search component of stimuli perception.
During a visual search a person uses cues like color, shape, and size to distinguish objects from one another.
There are two stages that comprise this theory.
The first is the pre-attention stage in which the individual focuses on one distinguishing attribute of the object. The pre-attention phase is an automatic process which happens unconsciously. The second stage is focused attention in which an individual takes all of the observed features and combines them to make a complete perception.
This second stage process occurs if the object doesn't stand out immediately. For example, if you were looking for a penny in a handful of quarters it would be easy to spot and only require pre-attention focus. If you were looking for a nickel in a handful of quarters it would be more difficult to spot because of the same color and similar size- focused attention would be required to spot the nickel.