October 2020
Volume 20, Issue 11
Open Access
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   October 2020
Many exposures to a real-world object without knowing the details: The focus of attention does not include entire objects but only the relevant level of abstraction
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Michael G Allen
    University of California, San Diego
  • Timothy F Brady
    University of California, San Diego
  • Footnotes
    Acknowledgements  NSF BCS-1829434 to TFB
Journal of Vision October 2020, Vol.20, 1740. doi:https://doi.org/10.1167/jov.20.11.1740
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      Michael G Allen, Timothy F Brady; Many exposures to a real-world object without knowing the details: The focus of attention does not include entire objects but only the relevant level of abstraction. Journal of Vision 2020;20(11):1740. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/jov.20.11.1740.

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      © ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)

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  • Supplements
Abstract

Participants frequently fail to remember information (e.g., the identity of a letter) immediately after seemingly processing it (finding the letter in a set of numbers to report its color; Chen & Wyble, 2015). This appears to pose a challenge to the common assumption that an item in the focus of attention is processed and therefore remembered a few seconds later. Chen and Wyble argue that the target identity is encoded but not consolidated into memory, however we have recently suggested that there may be a failure of encoding: some category information is so automatically accessible, identity never needs to be accessed or encoded at all. For example, while membership of the category ‘letter’ may be automatically assessed, membership of category ‘letter from 1st half of the alphabet’ almost certainly requires processing of identity. Consistent with this, we find that in the latter condition, participants accurately remember letter identity, suggesting that when identity is necessary for target identification it is encoded and consolidated into memory. The current study extends these findings to an investigation of the commonly demonstrated long-term memory-based amnesia for details of the US penny (Nickerson, 1979). On every trial, people searched for and found a penny. When participants looked for this penny target among real coin distractors, they had amnesia for penny details (on two surprise trials), despite having seen it thousands of times previously and having searched for it actively on a dozen proceeding trials. However, when fake pennies were included as distractors, this amnesia disappeared. These results argue that the focus of attention is not all-or-none: we can look at and process a penny or a letter, but we do not by necessity process the entire object when we do so. The information required for report causes different levels of processing of the exact same object.

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