The visual sense has outstanding significance for human perception and behavior, and visualattention plays a central role in the processing of the sensory input. Thereby, multiple low- and high-level factors contribute to the guidance of attention. The present review focuses on two neglected high-level factors: emotion and personality. The review starts with an overview of different models of attention, providing a conceptual framework and illustrating the nature of low- and high-level factors in visual (...)attention. Then, the ambiguous concept of emotion is described, and recommendations are made for the experimental practice. In the following, we present several studies showing the influence of emotion on overt attention, whereby the distinction between internally and externally located emotional impacts is emphasized. We also provide evidence showing that emotional stimuli influence perceptual processing outside of the focus of attention, whereby results in this field are mixed. Then, we present some detached studies showing the reversed causal effect: attention can also affect emotional responses. The final section on emotion–attention interactions addresses the interplay on the neuronal level, which has been neglected for a long time in neuroscience. In this context, several conceptual recommendations for future research are made. Finally, based on findings showing inter-individual differences in human sensitivity to emotional items, we introduce the wide range of time-independent personality traits that also influence attention, and in this context we try to raise awareness of the consideration of inter-individual differences in the field of neuroscience. (shrink)
Linear mixed models (LMMs) provide a still underused methodological perspective on combining experimental and individual-differences research. Here we illustrate this approach with two-rectangle cueing in visualattention (Egly, Driver, & Rafal, 1994). We replicated previous experimental cue-validity effects relating to a spatial shift of attention within an object (spatial effect), to attention switch between objects (object effect), and to the attraction of attention towards the display centroid (attraction effect), taking also into account the design-inherent imbalance (...) of valid and other trials. We simultaneously estimated variance/covariance components of subject-related random effects for these spatial, object, and attraction effects in addition to their mean RTs. The spatial effect showed a strong positive correlation with mean RT and a strong negative correlation with the attraction effect. The analysis of individual differences suggests that slow subjects engage attention more strongly at the cued location than fast subjects. We compare this joint LMM analysis of experimental effects and associated subject-related variances and correlations with two alternative, frequently used, statistical procedures. (shrink)
That surface size has an impact on attention has been well-known in advertising research for almost a century; however, theoretical accounts of this effect have been sparse. To address this issue, we review studies on surface size effects on eye movements in this paper. While most studies find that large objects are more likely to be fixated, receive more fixations, and are fixated faster than small objects, a comprehensive explanation of this effect is still lacking. To bridge the theoretical (...) gap, we relate the findings from this review to three theories of surface size effects suggested in the literature: a linear model based on the assumption of random fixations (Lohse, 1997), a theory of surface size as visual saliency (Pieters et al., 2007), and a theory based on competition for attention (Janiszewski, 1998). We furthermore suggest a fourth model – demand for attention –which we derive from the theory of competition for attention by revising the underlying model assumptions. In order to test the models against each other, we reanalyse data from an eye tracking study investigating surface size and saliency effects on attention. The reanalysis revealed little support for the first three theories while the demand for attention model showed a much better alignment with the data. We conclude that surface size effects may best be explained as an increase in object signal strength which depends on object size, number of objects in the visual scene, and object distance to the centre of the scene. Our findings suggest that advertisers should take into account how objects in the visual scene interact in order to optimize attention to, for instance, brands and logos. (shrink)
Human perception of faces is widely believed to rely on automatic processing by a domain-specifi c, modular component of the visual system. Scalp-recorded event-related potential (ERP) recordings indicate that faces receive special stimulus processing at around 170 ms poststimulus onset, in that faces evoke an enhanced occipital negative wave, known as the N170, relative to the activity elicited by other visual objects. As predicted by modular accounts of face processing, this early face-specifi c N170 enhancement has been reported (...) to be largely immune to the infl uence of endogenous processes such as task strategy or attention. However, most studies examining the infl uence of attention on face processing have focused on non-spatial attention, such as object-based attention, which tend to have longer-latency effects. In contrast, numerous studies have demonstrated that visual spatial attention can modulate the processing of visual stimuli as early as 80 ms poststimulus – substantially earlier than the N170. These temporal characteristics raise the question of whether this initial face-specifi c processing is immune to the infl uence of spatial attention. This question was addressed in a dual-visualstream ERP study in which the infl uence of spatial attention on the face-specifi c N170 could be directly examined. As expected, early visual sensory responses to all stimuli presented in an attended location were larger than responses evoked by those same stimuli when presented in an unattended location. More importantly, a signifi cant face-specifi c N170 effect was elicited by faces that appeared in an attended location, but not in an unattended one. In summary, early face-specifi c processing is not automatic, but rather, like other objects, strongly depends on endogenous factors such as the allocation of spatial attention. Moreover, these fi ndings underscore the extensive infl uence that top-down attention exercises over the processing of visual stimuli, including those of high natural salience. (shrink)
I propose a new argument showing that conscious vision sometimes depends constitutively on conscious attention. I criticise traditional arguments for this constitutive connection, on the basis that they fail adequately to dissociate evidence about visual consciousness from evidence about attention. On the same basis, I criticise Ned Block's recent counterargument that conscious vision is independent of one sort of attention (‘cognitive access'). Block appears to achieve the dissociation only because he underestimates the indeterminacy of visual (...) consciousness. I then appeal to empirical work on the interaction between visual indeterminacy and attention, to argue for the constitutive connection. (shrink)
In the current study participants explored a desktop virtual environment (VE) representing a suburban neighborhood with signs of public disorder (neglect, vandalism and crime), while being exposed to either room air (control group), or subliminal levels of tar (unpleasant; typically associated with burned or waste material) or freshly cut grass (pleasant; typically associated with natural or fresh material) ambient odor. They reported all signs of disorder they noticed during their walk together with their associated emotional response. Based on recent evidence (...) that odors reflexively direct visualattention to (either semantically or affectively) congruent visual objects, we hypothesized that participants would notice more signs of disorder in the presence of ambient tar odor (since this odor may bias attention to unpleasant and negative features), and less signs of disorder in the presence of ambient grass odor (since this odor may bias visualattention towards the vegetation in the environment and away from the signs of disorder). Contrary to our expectations the results show that the presence of an ambient odor did not affect the participants’ visualattention for signs of disorder or their emotional response. We conclude that a closer affective, semantic or spatiotemporal link between the contents of a desktop VE and ambient scents may be required to effectively establish diagnostic associations that guide a user’s attention. In the absence of these direct links, ambient scent may be more diagnostic for the physical environment of the observer as a whole than for the particular items in that environment (or, in this case, items represented in the VE). (shrink)
Reflection on the fine-grained information required for visual guidance of action has suggested that visual content is non-conceptual. I argue that in a common type of visually guided action, namely the use of manipulable artefacts, vision has conceptual content. Specifically, I show that these actions require visualattention and that concepts are involved in directing attention. In acting with artefacts, there is a way of doing it right as determined by the artefact’s conventional use. (...) class='Hi'>Attention must reflect our understanding of the function and appropriate ways to use these artefacts, understanding that requires possession of the relevant concept. As a result, we attend to the artefact’s relevant functional properties. In these cases, attention is structured by concepts. This discussion has a bearing on the dual visual stream hypothesis. While it is often held that the two visual streams are functionally independent, the argument of this essay is that the constraints on attention suggest a functional interaction between them. (shrink)
Although much of vision appears to be effortless and all-encompassing, there nevertheless exist limits to what it can do. Consider, for example, air traffic control, where it is imperative to keep track of all moving items in a display (corresponding to the airplanes in an airspace). If only a single item is present, it can generally be tracked without problem. It is also possible to track four or five items simultaneously, although some effort is needed. But for twenty or thirty (...) items, even a maximal effort will not suffice, and the task must be shared among several controllers. What appears to be happening in such cases is that visual perception is constrained by a consciously-controlled factor within the observer, a factor that enables certain kinds of processing to take place, but which is limited in the extent to which it can be applied. This factor is referred to as visualattention. (shrink)
This chapter presents an overview of several recent developments in vision science, and outlines some of their implications for the management of visualattention in graphic displays. These include ways of sending attention to the right item at the right time, techniques to improve attentional efficiency, and possibilities for offloading some of the processing typically done by attention onto nonattentional mechanisms. In addition it is argued that such techniques not only allow more effective use to be (...) made of visualattention, but also open up new possibilities for human-machine interaction. (shrink)
The nature of attention is one of the oldest and most central problems in psychology. A huge amount of research has been produced on this subject in the last half century, especially on attention in the visual modality, but a general explanation has remained elusive. Many still view attention research as a field that is fundamentally fragmented. This book takes a different perspective and presents a unified theory of visualattention: the TVA model. The (...) TVA model explains the many aspects of visualattention by just two mechanisms for selection of information: filtering and pigeonholing. These mechanisms are described in a set of simple equations, which allow TVA to mathematically model a large number of classical results in the attention literature. The theory explains psychological and neuroscientific findings by the same equations; TVA is a complete theory of visualattention, linking mind and brain. Aimed at advanced students and professional researchers, Principles of VisualAttention contains a detailed review of the most important research done on attention in vision, spanning cognitive psychology, brain imaging, patient studies, and recordings from single cells in the visual cortex. The book explains the TVA model and shows how it accounts for attentional effects observed across all the research areas described. Principles of VisualAttention offers a uniquely integrated view on a central topic in cognitive neuroscience. (shrink)
Models of saccade generation and visual selective attention must explain how and why particular targets are selected. Findlay & Walker do an excellent job of explaining the how of visual selection, but not the why. For a salience map to be more than a description of the relative importance of potential targets, there must be some account of the learning and inheritance that fashion its peaks and troughs. Point of gaze is not necessarily region of attention, (...) and it may be premature to downgrade the role of covert attention in models of visual selection. (shrink)
The transition from modernity to post-modernity features changes in values amplified by an enormous increase in visual stimuli. This increase motivates analysis of the power of attention to create the present. Complexity theory illuminates this power and leads to the startling conclusion that we spend much of our waking life in a gap of nonexistence.
This study investigates whether addressees visually attend to speakers¿ gestures in interaction and whether attention is modulated by changes in social setting and display size. We compare a live face-to-face setting to two video conditions. In all conditions, the face dominates as a fixation target and only a minority of gestures draw fixations. The social and size parameters affect gaze mainly when combined and in the opposite direction from the predicted with fewer gestures fixated on video than live. Gestural (...) holds and speakers¿ gaze at their own gestures reliably attract addressees¿ fixations in all conditions. The attraction force of holds is unaffected by changes in social and size parameters, suggesting a bottom-up response, whereas speaker-fixated gestures draw significantly less attention in both video conditions, suggesting a social effect for overt gaze-following and visual joint attention. The study provides and validates a video-based paradigm enabling further experimental but ecologically valid explorations of cross-modal information processing. (shrink)
As many as two million people in the United Kingdom repeatedly see people, animals, and objects that have no objective reality. Hallucinations on the border of sleep, dementing illnesses, delirium, eye disease, and schizophrenia account for 90% of these. The remainder have rarer disorders. We review existing models of recurrent complex visual hallucinations (RCVH) in the awake person, including cortical irritation, cortical hyperexcitability and cortical release, top-down activation, misperception, dream intrusion, and interactive models. We provide evidence that these can (...) neither fully account for the phenomenology of RCVH, nor for variations in the frequency of RCVH in different disorders. We propose a novel Perception and Attention Deficit (PAD) model for RCVH. A combination of impaired attentional binding and poor sensory activation of a correct proto-object, in conjunction with a relatively intact scene representation, bias perception to allow the intrusion of a hallucinatory proto-object into a scene perception. Incorporation of this image into a context-specific hallucinatory scene representation accounts for repetitive hallucinations. We suggest that these impairments are underpinned by disturbances in a lateral frontal cortex–ventral visual stream system. We show how the frequency of RCVH in different diseases is related to the coexistence of attentional and visual perceptual impairments; how attentional and perceptual processes can account for their phenomenology; and that diseases and other states with high rates of RCVH have cholinergic dysfunction in both frontal cortex and the ventral visual stream. Several tests of the model are indicated, together with a number of treatment options that it generates. Key Words: Blindness; Charles Bonnet; cholinergic; cortical release; delirium; dementia; dream intrusion; hallucination; Perception and Attention Deficit (PAD) model; schizophrenia. (shrink)
We investigated how the brain integrates motivational and attentional signals by using a neuroimaging paradigm that provided separate estimates for transient cue- and target-related signals, in addition to sustained block-related responses. Participants performed a Posner-type task in which an endogenous cue predicted target location on 70% of trials, while motivation was manipulated by varying magnitude and valence of a cash incentive linked to task performance. Our findings revealed increased detection performance (d’) as a function of incentive value. In parallel, brain (...) signals revealed that increases in absolute incentive magnitude led to cue- and target-specific response modulations that were independent of sustained state effects across visual cortex, fronto-parietal regions, and subcortical regions. Interestingly, state-like effects of incentive were observed in several of these brain regions, too, suggesting that both transient and sustained fMRI signals may contribute to task performance. For both cue and block periods, the effects of administering incentives were correlated with individual trait measures of reward sensitivity. Taken together, our findings support the notion that motivation improves behavioral performance in a demanding attention task by enhancing evoked responses across a distributed set of anatomical sites, many of which have been previously implicated in attentional processing. However, the effect of motivation was not simply additive as the impact of absolute incentive was greater during invalid than valid trials in several brain regions, possibly because motivation had a larger effect on reorienting than orienting attentional mechanisms at these sites. (shrink)
We investigated the neural mechanisms and the autonomic and cognitive responses associated with visual avoidance behavior in spider phobia. Spider phobic and control participants imagined visiting different forest locations with the possibility of encountering spiders, snakes, or birds (neutral reference category). In each experimental trial, participants saw a picture of a forest location followed by a picture of a spider, snake, or bird, and then rated their personal risk of encountering these animals in this context, as well as their (...) fear. The greater the visual avoidance of spiders that a phobic participant demonstrated (as measured by eye tracking), the higher were her autonomic arousal and neural activity in the amygdala, orbitofrontal cortex (OFC), anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), and precuneus at picture onset. Visual avoidance of spiders in phobics also went hand in hand with subsequently reduced cognitive risk of encounters. Control participants, in contrast, displayed a positive relationship between gaze duration toward spiders, on the one hand, and autonomic responding, as well as OFC, ACC, and precuneus activity, on the other hand. In addition, they showed reduced encounter risk estimates when they looked longer at the animal pictures. Our data are consistent with the idea that one reason for phobics to avoid phobic information may be grounded in heightened activity in the fear circuit, which signals potential threat. Because of the absence of alternative efficient regulation strategies, visual avoidance may then function to down-regulate cognitive risk evaluations for threatening information about the phobic stimuli. Control participants, in contrast, may be characterized by a different coping style, whereby paying visualattention to potentially threatening information may help them to actively down-regulate cognitive evaluations of risk. (shrink)
Meditation has lately received considerable interest from cognitive neuroscience. Studies suggest that daily meditation leads to long lasting attentional and neuronal plasticity. We present changes related to the attentional systems before and after a 3 month intensive meditation retreat. We used 3 behavioral psychophysical tests - a Stroop task, an attentional blink task, and a global-local letter task - to assess the effect of Isha yoga meditation on attentional resource allocation. 82 Isha yoga practitioners were tested at the beginning and (...) at the end of the retreat. Our results showed an increase in correct responses specific to incongruent stimuli in the Stroop task. Congruently, a positive correlation between previous meditation experience and accuracy to incongruent Stroop stimuli was also observed at baseline. We also observed a reduction of the attentional blink. Unexpectedly, a negative correlation between previous meditation experience and attentional blink performance at baseline was observed. Regarding spatial attention orientation as assessed using the global-local letter task, participants showed a bias toward local processing. Only slight differences in performance were found pre- vs. post- meditation retreat. Previous meditation experience influenced the Stroop and attentional blink tasks in opposite directions – for the Stroop task congruent with the improvements seen after the retreat whereas for the attentional blink previous experience correlated negatively with performance. Biasing towards the local stimuli in the global-local task and negative correlation of previous meditation experience with attentional blink performance is consistent with Isha practices being more focused-attention practices. Given the relatively small effect sizes and the absence of a control group, our results do not allow clear support nor rejection of the hypothesis of meditation-driven neuronal plasticity in the attentional system for Isha yoga practice. (shrink)
We investigated intermodal attention effects on the auditory steady-state response (ASSR) and the steady-state visual evoked potential (SSVEP). For this purpose, 40 Hz amplitude modulated tones and a stream of flickering (7.5 Hz) random letters were presented concurrently. By means of an auditory or visual target detection task, participants’ attention was directed to the respective modality for several seconds. Attention to the auditory stream led to a significant enhancement of the ASSR compared to when the (...)visual stream was attended. This attentional modulation was located mainly in the right superior temporal gyrus. Vice versa, attention to the visual stream especially increased the second harmonic response of the SSVEP. This modulation was focused in the inferior occipital and lateral occipitotemporal gyrus of both hemispheres. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first demonstration of amplitude modulation of the ASSR and the SSVEP by intermodal sustained attention. Our results open a new avenue of research to understand the basic neural mechanisms of intermodal attention in the human brain. (shrink)
The systematic review of key topics and the multitude of perspectives make this book an ideal primary or ancillary text for graduate courses in perception, vision, consciousness, or philosophy of mind.
Humans survive in environments that contain a vast quantity and variety of visual information. All items of perceived visual information must be represented within a limited number of brain networks. The human brain requires mechanisms for selecting only a relevant fraction of perceived information for more in-depth processing, where neural representations of that information may be actively maintained and utilized for goal-directed behavior. Object-based attention is crucial for goal-directed behavior and yet remains poorly understood. Thus, in the (...) study we investigate how neural representations of visual object information are guided by selective attention. The magnitude of activation in human extrastriate cortex has been shown to be modulated by attention; however object-based attention is not likely to be fully explained by a localized gain mechanism. Thus, we measured information coded in spatially distributed patterns of brain activity with fMRI while human participants performed a task requiring selective processing of a relevant visual object category that differed across conditions. Using pattern classification and spatial correlation techniques, we found that the direction of selective attention is implemented as a shift in the tuning of object-based information representations within extrastriate cortex. In contrast, we found that representations within lateral prefrontal cortex coded for the attention condition rather than the concrete representations of object category. In sum, our findings are consistent with a model of object-based selective attention in which representations coded within extrastriate cortex are tuned to favor the representation of goal-relevant information, guided by more abstract representations within lateral prefrontal cortex. (shrink)
Training on a visual task leads to increased perceptual and neural responses to visual features that were attended during training as well as decreased responses to neglected distractor features. However, the time course of these attention-based modulations of neural sensitivity for visual features has not been investigated before. Here we measured event related potentials (ERP) in response to motion stimuli with different coherence levels before and after training on a speed discrimination task requiring object-based attentional selection (...) of one of the two competing motion stimuli. We found that two peaks on the ERP waveform were modulated by the strength of the coherent motion signal; the response amplitude associated with motion directions that were neglected during training was smaller than the response amplitude associated with motion directions that were attended during training. The first peak of motion coherence-dependent modulation of the ERP responses was at 300 ms after stimulus onset and it was most pronounced over the occipitotemporal cortex. The second peak was around 500 ms and was focused over the parietal cortex. A control experiment suggests that the earlier motion coherence-related response modulation reflects the extraction of the coherent motion signal whereas the later peak might index accumulation and readout of motion signals by parietal decision mechanisms. These findings suggest that attention-based learning affects neural responses both at the sensory and decision processing stages. (shrink)
determinacy is the claim that covert shifts in visualattention sometimes affect the determinacy of visual content (capital letters will distinguish the claim from the familiar word, ?determinacy?). Representationalism is the claim that visual phenomenology supervenes on visual representational content. Both claims are popular among contemporary philosophers of mind, and determinacy has been employed in defense of representationalism. I claim that existing arguments in favor of determinacy are inconclusive. As a result, determinacy-based arguments in support (...) of representationalism are not strong ones. (shrink)
John Campbell argues that visualattention to objects is the means by which we can refer to objects, and that this is so because conscious visualattention enables us to retrieve information about a location. It is argued here that while Campbell is right to think that we visually attend to objects, he does not give us sufficient ground for thinking that consciousness is involved, and is wrong to assign an intermediary role to location. Campbell’s view (...) on sortals is also queried, as is his espousal of the so-called Referential View of Experience. (shrink)
Recent developments in psychology and neuroscience suggest away to link the mental phenomenon of visual awareness with specific neural processes. Here, it is argued that the feed-forward activation of cells in any area of the brain is not sufficient to generate awareness, but that recurrent processing, mediated by horizontal and feedback connections is necessary. In linking awareness with its neural mechanisms it is furthermore important to dissociate phenomenal awareness from visualattention or decision processes.
Commentators agree that the Perception and Attention Deficit (PAD) model is a promising model for accounting for recurrent complex visual hallucinations (RCVH) across several disorders, though with varying detailed criticisms. Its central tenets are not modified, but further consideration of generative models of visual processing and the relationship of proto-objects and memory systems allows the PAD model to deal with variations in phenomenology. The commentaries suggest new ways to generate evidence that will test the model.
Unilateral neglect stems from a relatively selective impairment of exogenous, or stimulus-related, orienting of attention. This neuropsychological evidence parallels “change blindness” experiments, in which normal individuals lack awareness of salient details in the visual scene as a consequence of their attention being exogenously attracted by a competing event, suggesting that visual consciousness requires the integrity of exogenous orienting of attention.
The Perception and Attention Deficit (PAD) model of visual hallucinations is as limited in generality as other models. It does, however, raise an interesting hypothesis on the role of attentional biases among proto-objects. The prediction that neither impaired attention nor impaired sensory activation alone will produce hallucinations should be addressed in future studies by analysing partial correlations between putative causes and hallucinatory effects.
In three experiments, participants' visual span was measured in a comparative visual search task in which they had to detect a local match or mismatch between two displays presented side by side. Experiment 1 manipulated the dif®culty of the comparative visual search task by contrasting a mismatch detection task with a substantially more dif®cult match detection task. In Experiment 2, participants were tested in a single-task condition involving only the visual task and a dual-task condition in (...) which they concurrently performed an auditory task. Finally, in Experiment 3, participants performed two dual-task conditions, which differed in the dif®culty of the concurrent auditory task. Both the comparative search task dif®culty (Experiment 1) and the divided attention manipulation (Experiments 2 and 3) produced strong effects on visual span size. q 2001 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved. (shrink)
Ever since Wheatstone initiated the scientific study of binocular rivalry, it has been debated whether the phenomenon is under attentional control. In recent years, the issue of attentional modulation of binocular rivalry has seen a revival. Here we review the classical studies as well as recent advances in the study of attentional modulation of binocular rivalry. We show that (1) voluntary control over binocular rivalry is possible, yet limited, (2) both endogenous and exogenous attention influence perceptual dominance during rivalry, (...) (3) diverting attention from rival displays does not arrest perceptual alternations, and that (4) rival targets by themselves can also attract attention. From a theoretical perspective, we suggest that attention affects binocular rivalry by modulating the effective contrast of the images in competition. This contrast enhancing effect of top-down attention is counteracted by a response attenuating effect of neural adaptation at early levels of visual processing, which weakens the response to the dominant image. Moreover, we conclude that although frontal and parietal brain areas involved in both binocular rivalry and visualattention overlap, an adapting reciprocal inhibition arrangement at early visual cortex is sufficient to trigger switches in perceptual dominance independently of a higher-level ‘selection’ mechanisms. Both of these processes are reciprocal and therefore self-balancing, with the consequence that complete attentional control over binocular rivalry can never be realized. (shrink)
A common objection to representationalism is that a representationalist view of phenomenal character cannot accommodate the effects that shifts in covert attention have on visual phenomenology: covert attention can make items more visually prominent than they would otherwise be without altering the content of visual experience. Recent empirical work on attention casts doubt on previous attempts to advance this type of objection to representationalism and it also points the way to an alternative development of the (...) objection. (shrink)