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The role of attention in the processing of biological motion


Thornton,  IM
Department Human Perception, Cognition and Action, Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, Max Planck Society;

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Thornton, I., Cavanagh, P., & Labianca, A. (2000). The role of attention in the processing of biological motion. Poster presented at 23rd European Conference on Visual Perception (ECVP 2000), Groningen, Netherlands.

Previous studies have shown that some forms of biological-motion displays--specifically those in which bottom - up integration is possible--can be processed very effectively when attention is allocated to a demanding secondary task (Thornton et al, 1998 Perception Supplement, 68b; Thornton et al, 1999 Perception Supplement, 35c). Here we further explore the role of attention in biological-motion processing using visual search and flanker interference paradigms. Even in the absence of masking elements, detection of a target walker amongst distractor walkers (set size ranged between 1 and 4 walkers) was always slow and effortful, requiring approximately 116 ms per item when the target was defined in terms of direction of locomotion (left-facing walker amongst right-facing walkers or vice versa), and close to 200 ms per item when the nature of target motion was varied (phase-scrambled versus phase-normal walkers). These findings suggest that the individuation of walking figures in these displays requires attention. We are currently using a concurrent flanker task to explore whether this reallocation of attention is a controlled or automatic process.