How voluntary spatial attention influences feature biases in object correspondence

Atten Percept Psychophys. 2020 Jun;82(3):1024-1037. doi: 10.3758/s13414-019-01801-9.


Our visual system is able to establish associations between corresponding images across space and time and to maintain the identity of objects, even though the information our retina receives is ambiguous. It has been shown that lower level factors-as, for example, spatiotemporal proximity-can affect this correspondence problem. In addition, higher level factors-as, for example, semantic knowledge-can influence correspondence, suggesting that correspondence might also be solved at a higher object-based level of processing, which could be mediated by attention. To test this hypothesis, we instructed participants to voluntarily direct their attention to individual elements in the Ternus display. In this ambiguous apparent motion display, three elements are aligned next to each other and shifted by one position from one frame to the next. This shift can be either perceived as all elements moving together (group motion) or as one element jumping across the others (element motion). We created a competitive Ternus display, in which the color of the elements was manipulated in such a way that the percept was biased toward element motion for one color and toward group motion for another color. If correspondence can be established at an object-based level, attending toward one of the biased elements should increase the likelihood that this element determines the correspondence solution and thereby that the biased motion is perceived. Our results were in line with this hypothesis providing support for an object-based correspondence process that is based on a one-to-one mapping of the most similar elements mediated via attention.

Keywords: Attention; Motion: Apparent; Perceptual organization.

MeSH terms

  • Attention*
  • Bias
  • Humans
  • Motion
  • Motion Perception
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Retina