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Benjamin van Buren, Brian Scholl; Perceived animacy influences other forms of visual processing: Improved sensitivity to the orientations of intentionally moving objects. Journal of Vision 2014;14(10):1023. doi: 10.1167/14.10.1023.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
For decades, work on perceived animacy has emphasized that the currency of perception consists not only of simple features such as color and shape, but also seemingly higher-level properties such as intentionality and goal-directedness. This work has typically been treated as an end-point of perception, but here we explore how perceiving intentions may interact with other aspects of visual processing. In particular, we demonstrate that when an object is seen to move intentionally, observers perceive its orientation with greater precision. We made use of the wolfpack effect: if a moving object remains oriented toward a particular target over time, observers will perceive its motion as intentional (e.g. as chasing) — even if its actual movements are random. In a detection task, observers viewed a moving disc sporting two dots that were perceived as eyes. The disc moved randomly, facing toward or away from another 'target' shape. Observers had to detect when (on half of trials) this 'facing' regularity became broken, such that the disc began rotating independently. Perceived intentionality boosted orientation processing: observers were more sensitive to the disc's rotation when it initially faced the target. This improvement also occurred in a reproduction task, with a task-irrelevant target. On each trial, observers viewed a randomly moving shape facing toward or away from (or independent of) a moving target. Unpredictably, both the target and the shape's orientation cue disappeared, the shape stopped moving, and observers had to reproduce the shape's final orientation. Responses were more accurate on trials where the shape faced the target, compared to when it faced away or rotated independently. Thus intentional motion improves orientation sensitivity even when the visual cue to intentionality is incidental. Collectively, these experiments demonstrate that the perception of intention from motion interacts with other visual processes in rich and hitherto unknown ways.
Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2014
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