The Role of Object Stability in the Allocation of Attention

Poster Presentation 43.330: Monday, May 22, 2023, 8:30 am – 12:30 pm, Banyan Breezeway
Session: Attention: Temporal, templates, memory

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Ece Yucer1 (), Jay Pratt1; 1University of Toronto

Every day, our visual attention needs to be allocated across the diverse and complex scenes we encounter. Previous research demonstrated that various physical features that make up the objects in the visual field (e.g., colour, size, shape, texture, and motion), as well as learned information such as context (e.g., a toaster on a counter vs a toaster in a sink), play a role in how we allocate our attention various scenes. Through a lifetime of interactions with objects and environments, we also learn that the physical properties of objects, such as shape, are often tied to our perception of structure in the visual world. These learned physical properties may apply both to individual objects (e.g., a canonical pyramid is highly stable vs an upside-down pyramid is highly unstable) and to the relationships between objects (e.g., for a two-square box tower, we can remove the top box easily but removing the bottom box would make the top box unstable.) Thus, we are investigating whether the perceived stability of an object or group of objects influences the allocation of attention. In a series of experiments, we used a cueless temporal order judgment task to answer this question. Participants were presented with both stable and unstable objects or sets of objects, separated by small temporal intervals, and asked which one appeared first in the display. Participants’ responses were fit into logistic regression models, and their point of subjective simultaneity (PSS) was calculated using the fitted model. These PSSs were near zero, indicating that stable and unstable objects or sets of objects did not differ in how attention was allocated to them. Overall, the results of these experiments help inform us of the role stability plays in perceiving objects in our visual environments.