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Alec Scharff, John Palmer, Cathleen M. Moore; Divided attention limits perception of 3-D object shapes. Journal of Vision 2013;13(2):18. doi: 10.1167/13.2.18.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
Can one perceive multiple object shapes at once? We tested two benchmark models of object shape perception under divided attention: an unlimited-capacity and a fixed-capacity model. Under unlimited-capacity models, shapes are analyzed independently and in parallel. Under fixed-capacity models, shapes are processed at a fixed rate (as in a serial model). To distinguish these models, we compared conditions in which observers were presented with simultaneous or sequential presentations of a fixed number of objects (The extended simultaneous-sequential method: Scharff, Palmer, & Moore, 2011a, 2011b). We used novel physical objects as stimuli, minimizing the role of semantic categorization in the task. Observers searched for a specific object among similar objects. We ensured that non-shape stimulus properties such as color and texture could not be used to complete the task. Unpredictable viewing angles were used to preclude image-matching strategies. The results rejected unlimited-capacity models for object shape perception and were consistent with the predictions of a fixed-capacity model. In contrast, a task that required observers to recognize 2-D shapes with predictable viewing angles yielded an unlimited capacity result. Further experiments ruled out alternative explanations for the capacity limit, leading us to conclude that there is a fixed-capacity limit on the ability to perceive 3-D object shapes.
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