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Naseem Al-Aidroos, Katty Ho, Jay Pratt; Attentional control settings affect attention but not perception: A study of gaze cues and pupilometry. Journal of Vision 2008;8(6):137. doi: 10.1167/8.6.137.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
The human visual system is calibrated by an observer's goal state such that attention is only allocated to stimuli possessing task relevant properties. In the present research we investigated whether such attentional control settings extend to perceptual processing. To answer this question we made use of gaze cues - centrally presented schematic faces, with eyes either gazing left or right, which have been shown to generate reflexive shifts of attention to peripheral locations. Our study produced two novel findings. First, the shifts of attention generated by gaze cues are contingent on the schematic face being presented in a task relevant color. In other words, gaze cues are sensitive to attentional control settings. Second, when a face is presented upright at fixation, it causes a contraction in pupil size relative to when the same face is presented upside-down. Importantly, this contraction of pupil size does not depend on the face being presented in a task relevant color. That is, gaze cues that were outside the attentional control setting did not generate shifts of attention even though they were perceived as faces. These results demonstrate that processing within the visual system can be calibrated to prevent task irrelevant stimuli from capturing attention, but not from being perceived.
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