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Joshua Cosman, Shaun Vecera; The perceptual fate of onsets: Abruptly appearing objects are perceived better. Journal of Vision 2008;8(6):784. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/8.6.784.
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It is well established that abruptly appearing objects capture attention in a stimulus-driven manner under at least some circumstances (Yantis & Jonides, 1990; Christ & Abrams, 2006), leading to a prioritization of visual search. However, there has been much less attention on the possible consequences of this prioritization on the perception of the abruptly appearing objects themselves. To this end, the current study used a perceptually demanding gap discrimination task to assess whether new, abruptly appearing objects receive benefits in perceptual processing over old objects. Participants performed a gap discrimination task in which an array of placeholders was presented briefly prior to the presentation of a single landolt square. The square had a small gap in either the top or bottom, and participants were asked to respond to the location of the gap (top vs. bottom of the box) across a number of gap sizes. Importantly, the target could appear randomly in any one of eight locations in an imaginary ring around fixation, only four of which were preceded by a placeholder. It was shown that participants were significantly more accurate at judging gap orientation when the target was an onset (i.e.; was not preceded by a placeholder) across all gap sizes. Control experiments ruled out forward masking and target location uncertainty as possible explanations for these results. It was concluded that abruptly appearing objects receive a benefit in perceptual processing as a result of their status as new objects.
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