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Not FLEXible enough: Exploring the temporal dynamics of attentional reallocations with the multiple object tracking paradigm



Not FLEXible enough: Exploring the temporal dynamics of attentional reallocations with the multiple object tracking paradigm



Journal of Experimental Psychology. Human Perception and Performance 42(6): 776-787



The dynamic environment of human observers requires continuous reallocations of visual attention to compensate for location changes of the attended objects. Particularly, situations with reduced spatial distance between targets and other objects in the display are crucial for keeping track of the target objects. In the present experiments, we explored how the temporal dynamics of such moments of reduced spacing affects the reallocation of visual attention. We asked participants to track 4 targets among indistinguishable distractors. Hereby, we manipulated whether target and distractor objects moved at a constant speed or whether their actual speed followed a sine wave profile. The variable speed oscillated around the constant speed thus maintaining average speed as well as traveled distance and average spatial proximity. We observed inferior tracking performance with variable speed profiles relative to constant speed profiles (Experiments 1a and 1b). When we increased the number of pairs of targets and distractors moving with a variable speed profile (Experiment 2), performance declined continuously. Remarkably, tracking performance also declined when only distractors moved at variable speeds, suggesting that the dynamic changes in interobject spacing rather than the variable speed impairs tracking (Experiment 3). In sum, our results provide evidence for a flexible allocation of the attentional resource toward targets suffering spatial interference by demonstrating the temporal constraints of the reallocation process. (PsycINFO Database Record

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Accession: 058427488

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PMID: 26689311


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