A set of five tasks was designed to examine dynamic aspects of visual attention: selective attention to color, selective attention to pattern, dividing and switching attention between color and pattern, and selective attention to pattern with changing target. These varieties of visual attention were examined using the same set of stimuli under different instruction sets; thus differences between tasks cannot be attributed to differences in the perceptual features of the stimuli. ERP data are presented for each of these tasks. A within-task analysis of different stimulus types varying in similarity to the attended target feature revealed that an early frontal selection positivity (FSP) was evident in selective attention tasks, regardless of whether color was the attended feature. The scalp distribution of a later posterior selection negativity (SN) was affected by whether the attended feature was color or pattern. The SN was largely unaffected by dividing attention across color and pattern. A large widespread positivity was evident in most conditions, consisting of at least three subcomponents which were differentially affected by the attention conditions. These findings are discussed in relation to prior research and the time course of visual attention processes in the brain. (C) 1999 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.