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Ekaterina Pechenkova; Measuring accommodation of visual attention: Titchener's “attention-wave” reconsidered?. Journal of Vision 2006;6(6):218. doi: 10.1167/6.6.218.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
It takes less time to focus one's attention on an event if one prepares to pay attention to this event. Such preparation or “accommodation” was first described among the properties of attention by Titchener (1912). In his terms, accommodation of attention towards an event results in faster rising of an impression onto the crest of the “attention-wave”. Accommodation takes time (1500 ms, according to Titchener's data). Decreased performance at shorter preparation intervals is nowadays discussed in terms of preparation costs (e.g., Ariga, Yokosawa, 2005).
We developed a method to investigate both time-course and individual differences in the accommodation of attention. It is based upon the fact that focused attention diminishes the pattern-masking effect. Thus, under the same masking conditions, the better the accommodation, the better the performance. We instructed 55 subjects to read a series of 60 common 6-letter Russian nouns presented for near-threshold durations (25–75 ms). Successive words were separated by a series of non-letter strings. These strings acted as forward and backward masks, and were presented for 200 ms each, alternating to fill the 600–1600 ms accommodation intervals between words. The results were wave-like accuracy patterns 91% of which demonstrated a single peak of performance accuracy within the interval range of 1000–1600 ms with a mode of 1200 ms (45%).
The substantial performance decrement at 1400–1600 ms suggests that attentional accommodation is more than mere preparation costs. Our method also provides a way to manipulate the probability of successful attention focusing for a particular individual.
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