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Alex O. Holcombe, W.-Y. Chen, Piers D. L. Howe; Object tracking: Absence of long-range spatial interference supports resource theories. Journal of Vision 2014;14(6):1. doi: 10.1167/14.6.1.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
Attentional tracking of a moving target can be impaired by the presence of a second object, particularly if the second object is another target. One potential cause of this impairment is spatial interference. But the impairment may alternatively reflect a need to divide a finite attentional resource among targets. The performance cost of splitting a resource among targets should not be affected by the targets' proximity and should persist even at very large target separations. In contrast, spatial interference should impair performance more when the second object is near than when it is far. Here, we report six experiments that assess the effect of the separation between two targets. Within the crowding zone for target identification found by previous psychophysical literature, tracking performance improved with separation. Beyond the crowding zone, there was no evidence that increases in separation improved two-target performance, suggesting no long-range spatial interference. Unexpectedly, in the one-target condition, greater separation from other distractors reduced performance somewhat. This may reflect a configural tracking process. For the two-target condition, due to the absence of a separation effect beyond the crowding zone, at the largest separations performance at tracking two targets remained much poorer than performance tracking one target. This large additional-target cost is better explained by hemisphere-specific resource theories than by spatial interference.
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