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Christian Vater, Ralf Kredel, Ernst-Joachim Hossner; Disentangling vision and attention in multiple-object tracking: How crowding and collisions affect gaze anchoring and dual-task performance. Journal of Vision 2017;17(5):21. doi: 10.1167/17.5.21.
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Previous studies of multiple-object tracking have shown that gaze behavior is affected by target collisions and target–distractor crowding. Therefore, in order to experimentally disentangle this collision-crowding confound, we examined events of target collisions with the bordering frame and crowding with distractors. We hypothesized that collisions are particularly demanding for covert attentional processing, whereas crowding particularly challenges peripheral vision. Results show that gaze is located closer to targets when they are crowded, as would be expected to reduce negative crowding effects by utilizing the higher spatial acuity of foveal vision. However, saccades, which interrupt visual information processing, were instead initiated as a function of target collisions with the bordering frame. Consequently, in a dual-task condition that required the detection of target changes, participants more frequently missed changes if they occurred in time intervals around a collision. Based on these results, superior performance should be expected if foveal gaze is optimally anchored among crowded targets and if potential target changes are monitored with peripheral vision. In addition to the implications for further laboratory research of multiple-object tracking, these findings are relevant to a multitude tasks that require the monitoring of several targets and the simultaneous detection of certain events in the visual periphery, as it is commonly the case, for instance, in sports.
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