October 2020
Volume 20, Issue 11
Open Access
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   October 2020
Does exogenously narrowing attention improve or impair temporal resolution?
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Rebecca Lawrence
    University of Toronto
  • Stephanie Goodhew
    The Australian National University
  • Mark Edwards
    The Australian National University
  • Jay Pratt
    University of Toronto
  • Footnotes
    Acknowledgements  This research is supported by an NSERC grant awarded to J.P (2016-06359), an Australian Research Council (ARC) Future Fellowship (FT170100021) awarded to S.C.G., and an ARC Discovery Project Awarded to M.E. (DP190103103)
Journal of Vision October 2020, Vol.20, 219. doi:https://doi.org/10.1167/jov.20.11.219
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      Rebecca Lawrence, Stephanie Goodhew, Mark Edwards, Jay Pratt; Does exogenously narrowing attention improve or impair temporal resolution?. Journal of Vision 2020;20(11):219. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/jov.20.11.219.

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

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Everyday life necessitates the efficient use of spatial attention, where one might broaden or narrow attention relative to task demands. For example, when driving, an individual is likely to spread attention broadly to scan and detect potential hazards. However, if brake lights suddenly flash in front of the driver, attention might be automatically narrowed to the car immediately ahead of them. The current study aimed to test the effect of automatically narrowing or broadening attention on temporal resolution: the ability to detect rapid temporal changes in the visual environment, such as a flickering light. Attention was manipulated using a peripheral cueing task, where lines of differing lengths were briefly presented to the left or right of fixation to automatically capture and scale attention. Following this, a small grey ring was presented at one of eight locations in the visual field, and participants decided whether or not the ring flickered. Critically, the size and location of the cues did not predict the upcoming location of the target. Thus, unlike past research, we ensured that attention was oriented in a true exogenous manner in response to the cues. Overall, we observed a main effect of cue location and a main effect of cue size on performance. Specifically, temporal resolution was worse for cued compared to uncued target locations as well as for small- compared to large-sized cues. Simply put, perception was worst at the most spatially-restricted cued location. This counterintuitive finding is important as it suggests that the automatic narrow focusing of attention at a location in the visual field, such as in response to the sudden flashing of a car’s brake lights, is detrimental for some temporal aspects of visual perception.


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