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Nir Shalev, Sage Boettcher, Anna Christina Nobre; Spatial-temporal predictions in a dynamic visual search. Journal of Vision 2021;21(9):39. https://doi.org/10.1167/jov.21.9.39.
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Our environment contains many regularities that allow the anticipation of upcoming events. Waiting for a traffic light to change, an elevator to arrive, or using a toaster: all contain temporal ‘rules’ that can be learned and used to improve performance. We investigated the guidance of spatial attention based on spatial-temporal associations using a dynamic variation of a visual search task. On each trial, individuals searched for eight targets among distractors, all fading in and out of the display at different locations and times. The screen was split into four distinct quadrants. Crucially, we rendered four targets predictable by presenting them repeatedly in the same quadrants and times throughout the task. The other four targets were randomly distributed in their locations and onsets. At the first part of our talk, we will show that participants are faster and more accurate in detecting predictable targets. We identify this benefit when testing both young adults (age 18-30), and in a cohort of young children (age 5-6). At the second part of the talk, we will present a further inquiry about the source of the behavioural benefit, contrasting sequential-priming vs. memory guidance. We do so by introducing two more task variations: one in which the onsets and locations of all targets occasionally repeated in successive trials; and one in which the trial pattern was occasionally violated. The results suggest that both factors, i.e., priming and memory, provide a useful source for guiding attention.
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