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Stephanie Saltzmann, Katherine Moen, Leslie Butler, Jagannathan Ramanujam, Alex Cohen, Steve Greening, Melissa Beck; Coarse and Fine Visual Attention Strategies during a 3D Mental Rotation Task. Journal of Vision 2018;18(10):1203. doi: 10.1167/18.10.1203.
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There is ongoing debate about whether mental rotation is best completed with a whole object versus a part based approach. In a typical mental rotation task, two objects are presented side-by-side and the participant determines if one of the objects is a rotated version of the other. This process likely requires (1) encoding a representation of the first fixated object (whole or part), (2) then attending to the second object, and then (3) rotating the mental representation of the first to determine if it matches the second object. Across this process, different scales of attention allocation may be employed (whole versus part). In the current study we examined participants' eye movements as they completed the mental rotation task in order to track the allocation of attention across time. Replicating previous research, as angular disparity increased, accuracy decreased and reaction time increased (Just & Carpenter, 1985; Stieff, 2007). Eye tracking data revealed that participants began each trial with brief fixations separated by longer saccades on one object, suggesting that participants were coarsely encoding the whole object. Then participants switched attention to the second object and used an encoding strategy geared toward encoding a part of the object (longer fixations and shorter saccades). This was followed by shifting attention back to the first object and using a part based attention allocation (longer fixations and shorter saccades) to process this object. Therefore, across switches between objects, there was an increase in fixation duration and a decrease in saccade amplitude, suggesting a switch from a coarse to a fine attention allocation (Over et al., 2007). Finally, males' accuracy was higher than females' and there was a positive correlation between accuracy and saccade amplitude for males, suggesting that using a whole object approach could be more effective in improving performance for males than for females.
Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2018
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