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Preview: Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance - Vol 35, Iss 6

Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance - Vol 42, Iss 12

The Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance publishes studies on perception, control of action, and related cognitive processes.

Last Build Date: Fri, 09 Dec 2016 12:00:10 EST

Copyright: Copyright 2016 American Psychological Association

Much ado about nothing: Capturing attention toward locations without new perceptual events.


Popular frameworks of attention propose that visual orienting occurs through a combination of bottom-up (stimulus-driven) and top-down (goal-directed) processes. Much of the basic research on these processes adheres paradigmatically to experimental methods that introduce salient but task-irrelevant stimuli (objects or transients) to the visual environment to determine whether attention is captured to their locations. This common practice of changing or adding a stimulus to a location to determine whether it captures attention reflects a notion that locations at which new features or stimuli spontaneously appear are prioritized above all else. In this article, we challenge this notion with results from a modified additional singleton paradigm. In the critical condition, following a preview array of placeholder stimuli, 1 placeholder stimulus transforms into a target diamond and changes luminance at the same time that all other placeholders, except 1 (the truly “static singleton”) change in luminance. This static singleton location, which involves neither a new stimulus nor any sensory transient, produces a clear pattern of attentional capture originating near its location. These findings violate multiple bottom-up and top-down perspectives while encouraging a new approach to studying attentional capture. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

Differentiating global and local contour completion using a dot localization paradigm.


Competing theories of partially occluded object perception (amodal completion) emphasize either relatively local contour relationships or global factors such as symmetry. These disparate theories may reflect 2 separate processes: a low-level contour interpolation process and a higher-order global recognition process. The 2 could be distinguished experimentally if only the former produces precise representations of occluded object boundaries. Using a dot localization paradigm, we measured the precision and accuracy of perceived object boundaries for participants instructed to complete occluded objects with divergent local and global interpretations. On each trial, a small red dot was flashed on top of an occluder. Participants reported whether the dot fell inside or outside the occluded object’s boundaries. Interleaved, 2-up, 1-down staircases estimated points on the psychometric function where the probability was .707 that the dot would be seen as either outside or inside the occluded object’s boundaries. The results reveal that local contour interpolation produces precise and accurate representations of occluded contours, and consistency across observers, but completion according to global symmetry does not. These results support a distinction between local, automatic contour interpolation processes and global processes based on recognition from partial information. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

Auditory stimuli automatically grab attention: Evidence from eye tracking and attentional manipulations.


Simultaneously presenting auditory and visual stimuli can hinder performance for one modality while the other dominates. For approximately 40 years, research with adults has primarily indicated visual dominance, while recent research with infants and young children has revealed auditory dominance. The current study further investigates modality dominance with adults, finding evidence for both auditory and visual dominance across 3 experiments. Using a simple discrimination task, Experiment 1 revealed that cross-modal presentation attenuated discrimination of auditory input, while at the same time, also slowed down visual processing. Even when participants were instructed to only pay attention to the visual stimuli, both spoken nonsense words and nonlinguistic sounds slowed down visual processing (Experiment 2). Experiment 3 used a similar discrimination task while utilizing an eye tracker to examine how auditory input affects visual fixations. Cross-modal presentation attenuated auditory discrimination; however, it also slowed down visual response times. In addition, adults also made longer fixations and were slower to make their first fixation when images were paired with sounds. The latter finding is novel and consistent with a proposed mechanism of auditory dominance: auditory stimuli automatically engage attention and attenuate or delay visual processing. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

Where to start? Bottom-up attention improves working memory by determining encoding order.


The present study aimed to characterize the mechanism by which working memory is enhanced for items that capture attention because of their novelty or saliency—that is, via bottom-up attention. The first experiment replicated previous research by corroborating that bottom-up attention directed to an item is sufficient for enhancing working memory and, moreover, generalized the effect to the domain of verbal working memory. The subsequent 3 experiments sought to determine how bottom-up attention affects working memory. We considered 2 hypotheses: (1) Bottom-up attention enhances the encoded representation of the stimulus, similar to how voluntary attention functions, or (2) It affects the order of encoding by shifting priority onto the attended stimulus. By manipulating how stimuli were presented (simultaneous/sequential display) and whether the cue predicted the tested items, we found evidence that bottom-up attention improves working memory performance via the order of encoding hypothesis. This finding was observed across change detection and free recall paradigms. In contrast, voluntary attention improved working memory regardless of encoding order and showed greater effects on working memory. We conclude that when multiple information sources compete, bottom-up attention prioritizes the location at which encoding should begin. When encoding order is set, bottom-up attention has little or no benefit to working memory. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

Eye movement evidence for an immediate Ganong effect.


Listeners tend to categorize an ambiguous speech sound so that it forms a word with its context (Ganong, 1980). This effect could reflect feedback from the lexicon to phonemic activation (McClelland & Elman, 1986), or the operation of a task-specific phonemic decision system (Norris, McQueen, & Cutler, 2000). Because the former account involves feedback between lexical and phonemic levels, it predicts that the lexicon’s influence on phonemic decisions should be delayed and should gradually increase in strength. Previous response time experiments have not delivered a clear verdict as to whether this is the case, however. In 2 experiments, listeners’ eye movements were tracked as they categorized phonemes using visually displayed response options. Lexically relevant information in the signal, the timing of which was confirmed by separate gating experiments, immediately increased eye movements toward the lexically supported response. This effect on eye movements then diminished over the course of the trial rather than continuing to increase. These results challenge the lexical feedback account. The present work also introduces a novel method for analyzing data from ‘visual-world’ type tasks, designed to assess when an experimental manipulation influences the probability of an eye movement toward the target. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

Word and pseudoword superiority effects on letter position processing in developing and skilled readers.


Studies have shown that letter position processing changes as reading develops. Whether these changes are driven by the development of the orthographic lexicon is currently unclear. In this study, we administered a novel variant of the Reicher-Wheeler task to children aged 7–12 years (Experiment 1) and adults (Experiment 2) to clarify the role of the developing lexicon in letter position processing. The task required participants to report the identity of a letter at a specified position within 3 orthographic contexts: anagram words (e.g., slime - which has the anagram partner, smile), pseudowords (e.g., blire - brile), and illegal nonwords (e.g., bfgsv - bsgfv). The influence of a reader’s whole-word orthographic representations was investigated by comparing the performance of words to pseudowords (word superiority effect or WSE), and the influence of their knowledge of orthotactic constraints was investigated by comparing pseudowords to illegal nonwords (pseudoword superiority effect or PSE). While the PSE increased with developing orthographic skills (as indexed by irregular word reading) in primary schoolchildren, the WSE emerged only in adult readers. Furthermore, the size of the WSE increased with orthographic skill in adults. The findings are discussed in regards to current models and theories of visual word recognition and reading development. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

Attention and eye-movement control in reading: The selective reading paradigm.


We introduced a novel paradigm for investigating covert attention and eye-movement control in reading. In 2 experiments, participants read sentence words (shown in blue color) while ignoring interleaved distractor strings (shown in orange color). Each single-line text display contained a target word and a critical distractor. Critical distractors were located just prior to the target in the text and were either words or symbol strings (e.g., @#%&). Target word availability for parafoveal processing (i.e., preview validity) was also manipulated. The results indicated much shallower processing of distractors than targets, and this pattern was more pronounced for symbol than word distractors. The influences of word frequency and fixation location on first-pass fixation durations on distractors were dramatically different than the well-documented pattern obtained in normal reading. Robust preview benefits were demonstrated both when the critical distractors were fixated and when the critical distractors were skipped. Finally, with the exception of larger preview benefits that were obtained in the condition in which the target and critical distractor were identical, the magnitude of the preview effect was largely unaffected by the nature of the critical distractor. Implications of the present paradigm and findings to the study of eye-movement control in reading are discussed. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

Parafoveal processing of Arabic diacritical marks.


Diacritics are glyph-like marks on letters that convey vowel information in Arabic, thus allowing for accurate pronunciation and disambiguation of homographs. For skilled readers, diacritics are usually omitted except when their omission causes ambiguity. Undiacritized homographs are very common in Arabic and are predominantly heterophones (where each meaning sounds different), with 1 version more common (dominant) than the others (subordinate). In this study the authors investigated parafoveal processing of diacritics during reading. They presented native readers with heterophonic homographs embedded in sentences with diacritization that instantiated either dominant or subordinate pronunciations of the homographs. Using the boundary paradigm, they presented previews of these words carrying either: identical diacritization to the target; inaccurate diacritization, such that if the target had dominant diacritization, the preview contained subordinate diacritization, and vice versa; or no diacritics. The results showed that readers processed the identity of diacritics parafoveally, such that inaccurate previews of the diacritics resulted in inflated fixation durations, particularly for fixations originating at close launch sites. Moreover, our results clearly indicate that readers’ expectation for dominant or subordinate diacritization patterns influences their parafoveal and foveal processing of diacritics. Specifically, a perceived absence of diacritics (either in no-diacritics previews, or because the eyes were too far away to process the presence of diacritics) induced an expectation for the dominant pronunciation, whereas the perceived presence of diacritics induced an expectation for the subordinate meaning. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

Reversed preview benefit effects: Forced fixations emphasize the importance of parafoveal vision for efficient reading.


Current theories of eye movement control in reading posit that processing of an upcoming parafoveal preview word is used to facilitate processing of that word once it is fixated (i.e., as a foveal target word). This preview benefit is demonstrated by shorter fixation durations in the case of valid (i.e., identical or linguistically similar) compared with invalid (i.e., dissimilar) preview conditions. However, we suggest that processing of the preview can directly influence fixation behavior on the target, independent of similarity between them. In Experiment 1, unrelated high and low frequency words were used as orthogonally crossed previews and targets and we observed a reversed preview benefit for low frequency targets—shorter fixation durations with an invalid, higher frequency preview compared with a valid, low frequency preview. In Experiment 2, the target words were replaced with orthographically legal and illegal nonwords and we found a similar effect of preview frequency on fixation durations on the targets, as well as a bimodal distribution in the illegal nonword target conditions with a denser early peak for high than low frequency previews. In Experiment 3, nonwords were used as previews for high and low frequency targets, replicating standard findings that “denied” preview increases fixation durations and the influence of target properties. These effects can be explained by forced fixations, cases in which fixations on the target were shortened as a consequence of the timing of word recognition of the preview relative to the time course of saccade programming to that word from the prior one. That is, the preview word was (at least partially) recognized so that it should have been skipped, but the word could not be skipped because the saccade to that word was in a nonlabile stage. In these cases, the system preinitiates the subsequent saccade off the upcoming word to the following word and the intervening fixation is short. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

Hearing in color: How expectations distort perception of skin tone.


Previous research has found that the perceived brightness of a face can be distorted by the social category of race. Thus, Levin and Banaji (2006) found, in a U.S. sample, that faces of identical brightness were perceived to be lighter if they had stereotypical White American features than if they had Black American features. Here, we present 2 experiments conducted in Natal, Brazil, that extend this line of research. Experiment 1 tested if the brightness distortion effect would generalize to a Brazilian population. Experiment 2 tested if speech accent would have a similar effect on brightness perception. In Experiment 1, we found that the brightness distortion effect clearly replicated in the Brazilian sample: Faces with Black racial features were perceived to be darker than faces with White racial features, even though their objective brightness was identical. In Experiment 2, we found that speech accent influenced brightness perception in a similar manner: Faces were perceived to be darker when paired with an accent associated with low socioeconomic status than when they were paired with an accent associated with high socioeconomic status. Whereas racial concepts in Brazil are often claimed to be much more fluid compared with the United States, our findings suggest that the populations are quite similar with respect to associations between facial features and skin tone. Our findings also demonstrate speech accent as an additional source of category information that perceptual cognition can take into account when modeling the world. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

Stimulus recognition occurs under high perceptual load: Evidence from correlated flankers.


A dominant account of selective attention, perceptual load theory, proposes that when attentional resources are exhausted, task-irrelevant information receives little attention and goes unrecognized. However, the flanker effect—typically used to assay stimulus identification—requires an arbitrary mapping between a stimulus and a response. We looked for failures of flanker identification by using a more-sensitive measure that does not require arbitrary stimulus–response mappings: the correlated flankers effect. We found that flanking items that were task-irrelevant but that correlated with target identity produced a correlated flanker effect. Participants were faster on trials in which the irrelevant flanker had previously correlated with the target than when it did not. Of importance, this correlated flanker effect appeared regardless of perceptual load, occurring even in high-load displays that should have abolished flanker identification. Findings from a standard flanker task replicated the basic perceptual load effect, with flankers not affecting response times under high perceptual load. Our results indicate that task-irrelevant information can be processed to a high level (identification), even under high perceptual load. This challenges a strong account of high perceptual load effects that hypothesizes complete failures of stimulus identification under high perceptual load. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

Different (key)strokes for different folks: How standard and nonstandard typists balance Fitts’ law and Hick’s law.


Fine motor skills like typing involve a mapping problem that trades Fitts’ law against Hick’s law. Eight fingers have to be mapped onto 26 keys. Movement time increases with distance, so Fitts’ law is optimized by recruiting more fingers. Choice difficulty increases with the number of alternatives, so Hick’s law is optimized by recruiting fewer fingers. The effect of the number of alternatives decreases with consistent practice, so skilled typists achieve a balance between Fitts’ law and Hick’s law through learning. We tested this hypothesis by comparing standard typists who use the standard QWERTY mapping consistently with nonstandard typists who use fewer fingers less consistently. Typing speed and accuracy were lower for nonstandard typists, especially when visual guidance was reduced by removing the letters from the keys or covering the keyboard. Regression analyses showed that accommodation to Fitts’ law (number of fingers) and Hick’s law (consistency) predicted typing speed and accuracy. We measured the automaticity of typing in both groups, testing for hierarchical control in 3 tasks: word priming, which measures parallel activation of keystrokes, keyboard recall, which measures explicit knowledge of letter locations, and hand cuing, which measures explicit knowledge of which hand types which letter. Standard and nonstandard typists showed similar degrees of hierarchical control in all 3 tasks, suggesting that nonstandard typists type as automatically as standard typists, but their suboptimal balance between Fitts’ law and Hick’s law limits their ability to type quickly and accurately. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

Visual attention is required for multiple object tracking.


In the multiple object tracking task, participants attempt to keep track of a moving set of target objects embedded in an identical set of moving distractors. Depending on several display parameters, observers are usually only able to accurately track 3 to 4 objects. Various proposals attribute this limit to a fixed number of discrete indexes (Pylyshyn, 1989), limits in visual attention (Cavanagh & Alvarez, 2005), or “architectural limits” in visual cortical areas (Franconeri, 2013). The present set of experiments examined the specific role of visual attention in tracking using a dual-task methodology in which participants tracked objects while identifying letter probes appearing on the tracked objects and distractors. As predicted by the visual attention model, probe identification was faster and/or more accurate when probes appeared on tracked objects. This was the case even when probes were more than twice as likely to appear on distractors suggesting that some minimum amount of attention is required to maintain accurate tracking performance. When the need to protect tracking accuracy was relaxed, participants were able to allocate more attention to distractors when probes were likely to appear there but only at the expense of large reductions in tracking accuracy. A final experiment showed that people attend to tracked objects even when letters appearing on them are task-irrelevant, suggesting that allocation of attention to tracked objects is an obligatory process. These results support the claim that visual attention is required for tracking objects. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

The capacity to detect synchronous audiovisual events is severely limited: Evidence from mixture modeling.


Visual attention serves to select salient and relevant events from the visual input. Selective attention to a visual event can be driven by a synchronous sound. Interestingly, recent evidence suggests that a sound can only drive selection of 1 concurrent visual event, suggesting that attentional capacity is much lower for audiovisual events than for purely visual events. Here we corroborate and extend this finding using a mixture modeling technique that distinguishes between the probability and precision of perception. Observers were presented with displays of multiple continuously flickering objects, of which either 1 or 2 were coupled to a single sound. In 2 experiments, we found that the probability of correctly reporting an object was almost halved when the number of synchronized visual objects increased from 1 to 2. Precision, however, was not affected. This indicates that rather than attention being distributed across multiple simultaneous audiovisual events, just 1 of them is singled out for attentional selection. This was not due to a capacity limit for selecting the visual objects per se; pure visual cues elicited a much higher probability of report and in that case there were clear declines in precision at larger set sizes, indicating the concurrent selection of multiple items. The results point toward a dissociation in capacity for visually and aurally cued prioritization of visual objects. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

How closely is the syllable stress effect tied to articulation? A commentary on Sulpizio, Spinelli, and Burani (2015).


Sulpizio, Spinelli, and Burani (2015a), concluded, on the basis of results from 3 reading aloud experiments, that stress assignment in polysyllabic pseudowords is closely tied to the process of articulation. We argue that there are methodological and statistical grounds for believing that this conclusion is premature. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

Stress still affects articulatory planning in reading aloud: A reply to White and Besner (2016).


In their comment, White and Besner (2016) argued against our conclusion that stress assignment may affect polysyllable pseudoword reading and concluded that, currently, we do not know whether the effect of stress position is solid and reliable. White and Besner stated that because the experiments reported in Sulpizio, Spinelli, and Burani (2015) have methodological problems, our conclusion is grounded on weak evidence. In this reply, we present further analyses of our data that overcome the methodological weakness highlighted by White and Besner. The results of these new analyses consistently mirror those reported by Sulpizio and colleagues (2015) and speak in favor of the view that, in reading Italian pseudowords aloud, stress assignment affects articulatory planning of the stimulus. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)(image)