Academic journal article Perception and Psychophysics

Motion Onset Captures Attention: A Rejoinder to Franconeri and Simons (2005)

Academic journal article Perception and Psychophysics

Motion Onset Captures Attention: A Rejoinder to Franconeri and Simons (2005)

Article excerpt

Recently, we have provided evidence that the onset of motion captures attention (Abrams & Christ, 2003, 2005a, 2005b). In the present article, we clarify the motion onset hypothesis, we discuss recent data (Franconeri & Simons, 2005) that, at least on the surface, seem to challenge the hypothesis, and we present results from a new experiment (Christ & Abrams, 2005). Finally, we conclude that, although motion onset does indeed appear to capture attention, motion in the absence of a motion onset might also attract attention under certain circumstances.

In an attempt to explain the capture of attention by a number of different dynamic events under a single theoretical umbrella, Franconeri and Simons (2003) introduced the behavioral urgency hypothesis:

The behavioral urgency hypothesis predicts capture [of attention] only by stimuli that indicate the potential need for immediate action. New objects, objects that move suddenly, and looming objects are all behaviorally urgent, and all strongly capture attention. Relative to these stimuli, receding objects and uniquely colored items are not as likely to require immediate action, and they do not strongly capture [attention]. (p. 1008)

Commenting on this work, we (Abrams & Christ, 2005) pursued the possibility that the hypothesis might involve a degree of circularity (i.e., Dynamic events that are behaviorally urgent capture attention. How does one know whether a dynamic event is behaviorally urgent? If it captures attention.), and we presented results showing that an object that appeared to recede could indeed capture attention if the receding motion was rendered with stereo depth cues (unlike the stimuli used by Franconeri & Simons, 2003). Those results contradict the findings reported by Franconeri and Simons (2003) and, more importantly, are inconsistent with their behavioral urgency hypothesis. In addition, we noted that our proposed motion onset hypothesis (Abrams & Christ, 2003) could accommodate the attentional advantage afforded to the moving stimuli employed in several of the Franconeri and Simons (2003) conditions.1

Most recently, Franconeri and Simons (2005) have presented a reply to our comment. In their reply, Franconeri and Simons (2005) present data from a new experiment that they argue are inconsistent with the motion onset hypothesis. Importantly, the version of the motion onset hypothesis tested by Franconeri and Simons (2005) differs in critical ways from our motion onset hypothesis as we have previously described it (Abrams & Christ, 2003, 2005a, 2005b). Furthermore, the data presented as evidence against the hypothesis are, in fact, entirely consistent with the hypothesis. Nevertheless, additional data from their new experiment not reported in their reply but provided in a personal communication (August 2, 2005) may indeed require that the hypothesis be tempered somewhat. Thus, the two main goals of the present article are (1) to reiterate and clarify the motion onset hypothesis and (2) to discuss the experimental results reported by Franconeri and Simons (2005) within the context of the hypothesis. To accomplish the second goal, we also report data from a new experiment.

The Motion Onset Hypothesis

Our motion onset hypothesis states that the onset of motion in a previously existing static object will capture attention (Abrams & Christ, 2003, 2005a, 2005b). The hypothesis stemmed from our research findings in which elements that underwent a motion onset were processed preferentially relative to elements that had been continuously moving, had been stationary, or had undergone a motion offset (Abrams & Christ, 2003). Our finding of no attentional benefit for continuous motion is consistent with findings of other researchers who failed to find an attentional advantage for objects that were already moving when they first appeared (e.g., Hillstrom & Yantis, 1994; Yantis & Egeth, 1999). …

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