Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Seeing isn't believing

08.09.2011
Pay attention! It's a universal warning, which implies that keeping close watch helps us perceive the world more accurately.

But a new study by Yale University cognitive psychologists Brandon Liverence and Brian Scholl finds that intense focus on objects can have the opposite effect: It distorts perception of where things are in relation to one another. The findings will be published in an upcoming issue of Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

"Figuring out where objects are in the world seems like one of the most basic and important jobs the brain does," says Liverence, a graduate student. "It was surprising to discover that even this simple type of perception is warped by our minds." The researchers studied such distortions when people had to focus their attention on some objects, but not others. When they did this, Liverence explains, the "attended objects" were seen as closer together than they really were, while the other objects were seen as farther apart than they really were.

To test this phenomenon, the researchers had people—10 in each of three experiments—complete simple visual tasks. In the one with the most striking results, participants watched four circles as they moved around on a computer monitor while rapidly changing colors. Before the movement began, two of the circles flashed several times; these were the "targets." During the ensuing motion, the participants had to press a key whenever either of those targets turned red or blue. Then, after several seconds of motion, all of the circles disappeared, and the participants clicked with a mouse on the locations they'd last seen the circles.

The subjects located the objects with high accuracy—good news, says Liverence, for people trying to cross the street. But their errors were not random. Instead, the researchers discovered two distortions—one expected, one surprising. As in past research, the reported locations of the circles were all compressed slightly toward the center of the display, as if the mind's representation of the world were slightly shrunk. Beyond this global distortion, though, subjects remembered the two target circles as closer to each other than they actually were (as if they were attracting each other), and reported the other two circles as farther apart than they'd been (as if they were repelling each other).

The findings add to a growing body of cognitive psychology that destabilizes our trust in what we think we know for sure and how we think we can know it more surely. "Attention is the way our minds connect with things in the environment, enabling us to see, remember, and interact with those things," says Liverence. "We tend to think that attention clarifies what's out there. But it also distorts."

For more information about this study, please contact: Brandon M. Liverence at brandon.liverence@yale.edu.

The APS journal Psychological Science is the highest ranked empirical journal in psychology. For a copy of the article "Selective Attention Warps Spatial Representation: Parallel but Opposing Effects on Attended vs. Inhibited Objects" and access to other Psychological Science research findings, please contact Lucy Hyde at 202-293-9300 or lhyde@psychologicalscience.org.

Lucy Hyde | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.psychologicalscience.org

Further reports about: Psychological Science Science TV universal warning visual tasks

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Smart Data Transformation – Surfing the Big Wave
02.12.2016 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Angewandte Informationstechnik FIT

nachricht Climate change could outpace EPA Lake Champlain protections
18.11.2016 | University of Vermont

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.

Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.

“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...

Im Focus: MADMAX: Max Planck Institute for Physics takes up axion research

The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.

The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...

Im Focus: Molecules change shape when wet

Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water

In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...

Im Focus: Fraunhofer ISE Develops Highly Compact, High Frequency DC/DC Converter for Aviation

The efficiency of power electronic systems is not solely dependent on electrical efficiency but also on weight, for example, in mobile systems. When the weight of relevant components and devices in airplanes, for instance, is reduced, fuel savings can be achieved and correspondingly greenhouse gas emissions decreased. New materials and components based on gallium nitride (GaN) can help to reduce weight and increase the efficiency. With these new materials, power electronic switches can be operated at higher switching frequency, resulting in higher power density and lower material costs.

Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE together with partners have investigated how these materials can be used to make power...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

UTSA study describes new minimally invasive device to treat cancer and other illnesses

02.12.2016 | Medical Engineering

Plasma-zapping process could yield trans fat-free soybean oil product

02.12.2016 | Agricultural and Forestry Science

What do Netflix, Google and planetary systems have in common?

02.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>