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Eric Taylor, Davood Gozli, Jay Pratt; Object substitution masking of symbolic stimuli and the allocation of spatial attention.. Journal of Vision 2014;14(10):617. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/14.10.617.
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Symbolic cues, such as arrows or words, can affect the way we allocate attention in the visual field. In this project, we asked whether awareness of arrows and words would modulate this effect. In two experiments, we used object substitution masking to conceal arrows or words and measured their effect on the processing of spatial information. In the first experiment, participants performed a modified spatial Stroop task in which a word (ABOVE, BELOW, LEFT, or RIGHT) would appear inside a four-dot pattern at one of four locations above, below, left, or right of fixation. Participants had to identify the word, as quickly as possible, regardless of location. The four-dot pattern could offset simultaneously with the word (unmasked condition) or delayed by 200ms (masked condition). We found a typical compatibility effect between the word identity and location when the word reached awareness and a negative compatibility effect when the word was successfully masked. A second experiment, used similar procedures except that an arrow (pointing left or right) was presented within a four-dot pattern either above or below fixation. Participants made a speeded response to the onset of a target on the left or right of the screen. As before, the four-dot pattern could offset simultaneously with the arrow (unmasked) or 200ms later (masked). We found that compatible arrow cues facilitated target detection in the unmasked condition, but this pattern reversed in the masked condition where target detection was slower with compatible arrow cues. These findings indicate that the effect of symbolic cues depends on awareness, and that symbolic cues presented below awareness can produce negative compatibility effects.
Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2014
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