September 2021
Volume 21, Issue 9
Open Access
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   September 2021
Attentional bias for faces, not scenes: neural and behavioral evidence
Author Affiliations
  • Andrew Persichetti
    National Institute of Mental Health
  • Daniel Jacobs
    Department of Psychology, Emory University, Atlanta, GA, USA
  • Daniel Dilks
    Department of Psychology, Emory University, Atlanta, GA, USA
Journal of Vision September 2021, Vol.21, 2152. doi:https://doi.org/10.1167/jov.21.9.2152
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      Andrew Persichetti, Daniel Jacobs, Daniel Dilks; Attentional bias for faces, not scenes: neural and behavioral evidence. Journal of Vision 2021;21(9):2152. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/jov.21.9.2152.

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

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Abstract

Social interactions form the foundation of human cultures and are critical to our survival. Since other people are dynamic and often unpredictable, our attention should be fixed on them by default. By contrast, since we are always within a spatial context (i.e., a scene), and since scenes are static and often predictable, our baseline attention to scene properties should be relatively low. Here, we provide evidence that visual attention is biased toward other people over scenes. In a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) experiment, a group of fifteen participants viewed blocks of scene and face images while making one of three judgements during each block: a category-specific judgment, one related to the central fixation cross, and another related to the outer edges of the image. We found a significantly greater reduction in response to scenes when attention was diverted away from the scene-specific features in the parahippocampal place area (PPA), compared to the minimal reduction in response to faces when attention was diverted away from the face-specific features in the fusiform face area (FFA). Next, in a behavioral experiment, two-hundred participants viewed a rapid serial visual presentation (RSVP) of intermixed scene, face, and object images, and then were asked to remember how many scenes, faces, or objects were displayed. Furthermore, half of the participants were told beforehand to attend to a specific stimulus type. We found that detection of scenes, faces, and objects were well above chance in the groups that were told to attend to a specific stimulus type. By contrast, in the groups that were not given such instructions, we found that scene and object detection fell to chance while face detection was unaffected. Taken together, these results provide neural and behavioral evidence that visual attention is biased towards other people compared to scenes.

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