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Alissa Stafford, Jason Fischer; The Time Course of Attentional Disengagement from Faces, Objects, and Scenes. Journal of Vision 2017;17(10):1320. doi: 10.1167/17.10.1320.
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To move our attention fluidly through a scene, we must disengage attention from each object or location before shifting to the next. Disengagement is a fundamental component of attentional orienting, and atypical disengagement is frequently studied in clinical populations as a potential factor in the etiology of a number of disorders. However, much less work has been done to establish the basic characteristics of attentional disengagement in typical observers. In particular, it remains unclear how the type of stimulus we are attending to influences the time it takes to disengage from it. Here, we measured the time it takes to disengage attention from a stimulus (disengagement cost) as a function of stimulus category (neutral faces, everyday objects, and scenes) and stimulus duration (.5s to 4s, in increments of .5s). We hypothesized that disengagement from faces would be slowest due to their social content, but that this effect would be diminished at longer viewing durations after participants had performed some initial exploration of the images. In a series of eye tracking experiments, participants viewed centrally-presented faces, objects, and scenes and were instructed to quickly make a saccade to a peripheral target pattern that appeared after a variable delay from the onset of the central stimulus. Importantly, the central stimulus remained onscreen until after the saccade was completed, requiring participants to disengage attention before shifting to the peripheral stimulus. As predicted, we found that participants were slowest to initiate a saccade when disengaging attention from a face. Disengagement costs decreased at longer stimulus durations for all categories, but the elevated disengagement cost for faces was roughly constant across durations. These results point to two independent influences of stimulus category and stimulus duration on attentional disengagement.
Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2017
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