August 2023
Volume 23, Issue 9
Open Access
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   August 2023
Visual attention flows downhill
Author Affiliations
  • Alex Mitko
    Johns Hopkins University
  • Jason Fischer
    Johns Hopkins University
Journal of Vision August 2023, Vol.23, 5987. doi:
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      Alex Mitko, Jason Fischer; Visual attention flows downhill. Journal of Vision 2023;23(9):5987.

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

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On a daily basis, we are confronted with a plethora of information about physical properties and physical interactions that we must quickly use to make predictions and take action. Imagine seeing a sled coming down a steep hill toward a crowd of people. We might expect the sled to continue barreling downhill, but does this expectation pull spatial attention along with it? In this case, it would be beneficial to direct attention to locations down the hill to warn people of the incoming sled. Representational momentum work has shown that our memory of an object’s location can be influenced by physical properties of a scene, but is the same true for in-the-moment attention? Here, we tested whether attention is pulled to where an object will be in a physical scene, and whether this pull is automatic. In two experiments, subjects were shown a colored ball in the middle of a ramp. On every trial, the ball disappeared and reappeared elsewhere on the ramp and subjects were required to respond to whether the ball was the same or different color than when it initially appeared. Even though the ball’s location on the ramp was irrelevant to the color change, subjects were quicker to respond when the ball reappeared slightly downhill on the ramp. This suggests that attention was automatically drawn downhill; but is this effect really due to the physical properties of the scene? To examine this, in a second experiment, we added barriers to the ramp that would hinder the ball from rolling downhill. Consequentially, the addition of the barriers abolished downhill attentional priming, suggesting the effect adhered to the physical aspects of the scene. These findings contribute to a deeper understanding of how expectations about physical interactions may automatically shape spatial attention.


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