Shape beyond recognition: form-derived directionality and its effects on visual attention and motion perception

J Exp Psychol Gen. 2014 Feb;143(1):434-54. doi: 10.1037/a0032353. Epub 2013 Apr 8.


The shape of an object restricts its movements and therefore its future location. The rules governing selective sampling of the environment likely incorporate any available data, including shape, that provide information about where important things are going to be in the near future so that the object can be located, tracked, and sampled for information. We asked people to assess in which direction several novel objects pointed or directed them. With independent groups of people, we investigated whether their attention and sense of motion were systematically biased in this direction. Our work shows that nearly any novel object has intrinsic directionality derived from its shape. This shape information is swiftly and automatically incorporated into the allocation of overt and covert visual orienting and the detection of motion, processes that themselves are inherently directional. The observed connection between form and space suggests that shape processing goes beyond recognition alone and may help explain why shape is a relevant dimension throughout the visual brain.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Attention*
  • Female
  • Form Perception*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Motion Perception*
  • Orientation
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual*
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Young Adult