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Highlighting was the basic viewing control mechanism in computer graphics and visualization to guide users' attention in reading diagrams, images, graphs and digital texts. As the rapid growth of theory and practice in information visualization, highlighting has extended its role that acts as not only a viewing control, but also an interaction control and a graphic recommendation mechanism in knowledge visualization and visual analytics. In this work, we attempt to give a formal summarization and classification of the existing highlighting methods and techniques that can be applied in Information Visualization, Visual Analytics and Knowledge Visualization. We propose a new three-layer model of highlighting. We discuss the responsibilities of each layer in the different stage of the visual information processing.