Context-Dependent Top-Down Influences Supersede Object Location In Visual Attention




Stanfield, Candice T.

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Previous studies using the dot perspective task repeatedly demonstration adult humans were slower when reporting the number of dots they could see in a picture when a human figure (e.g. avatar) was present and could “see” a different number of dots. This “self-consistency effect” is believed to occur when ascribing properties of mind to non- sentient objects (avatar). Two competing theories—domain-specific processing and domain-general processing—attempt to explain this phenomenon during task performance. Domain-specific regards these findings as highly specialized and independent of other functions. Conversely, domain-general proposes a combination of functions, such as working memory and directionality of the avatar’s location in relation to dot location, as an explanation. Though studies show higher-order processing influences our expectations about what we see through the use of context, investigation into latency effects of contextual manipulation are diminutive. In this study, an examination into the contextual effect of an avatar’s proposed sightedness on response latency was conducted using a dot perspective task. Participants (N = 65) made quick/accurate judgments based on three factors: perspective (self-perspective, other- perspective), consistency-level (consistent, inconsistent), and avatar’s sightedness (blind with bandana over avatar’s eyes, sighted with bandana on top of avatar’s head). This study validated the hypothesis that higher-order processes (context) overrides saliency during the dot perspective task. Though saliency of inconsistent dot locations produced response delays, it was the context of the avatar’s sightedness that produced significantly longer delays. This study produced results consistent with the theory of context modulating visual attention and the observed self-consistency effect.



Visual attention, Perspective-taking, Cognitive processing, Self-consistency effect, Context, Saliency, Top-down processing, Cognitive empathy


Stanfield, C. T. (2016). <i>Context-dependent top-down influences supersede object location in visual attention</i> (Unpublished thesis). Texas State University, San Marcos, Texas.


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