Academic journal article The Spanish Journal of Psychology

Interference in Visual Perception by Verbal and Spatial Cognitive Activity

Academic journal article The Spanish Journal of Psychology

Interference in Visual Perception by Verbal and Spatial Cognitive Activity

Article excerpt

In two experiments we tested the hypothesis that cognitive processing based on spatial imagery produces more deterioration of visual perception than cognitive processing based on verbal codes. So, we studied the effect on visual perception of two cognitive tasks, one of spatial imagery and the other a verbal task. In the first one, with 30 participants, we analyzed the mental load and ocular behaviors in both cognitive tasks. In the second experiment, with 29 participants, we studied the effect of both tasks on a visual search task, using a dual-task experimental paradigm. The verbal task presented higher mental load than the imagery task when both tasks were carried out with visual search task, and there was more deterioration in stimulus detection with the verbal task. We can conclude that: (1) cognitive tasks produce important deterioration in the capacities of visual search and identification of stimuli; (2) this deterioration has two components: (a) an inefficient search, associated with alterations of the gaze patterns while performing cognitive tasks, and (b) a general interference, nonspecific to spatial codes, in the process of identification of looked-at stimuli; (3) this cognitive interference is related to the mental load or effort required by the cognitive task.

Keywords: visual search, mental load, perceptual interference, inattentional blindness.

Mediante dos experimentos hemos puesto a prueba la hipótesis de que el procesamiento cognitivo basado en imaginería espacial produce más deterioro en la percepción visual que el procesamiento basado en códigos verbales. Hemos estudiado el efecto de dos tareas cognitivas, una de imaginería espacial y otra verbal, sobre la percepción visual. En el primer experimento, con 30 participantes, analizamos la carga mental y el comportamiento ocular en ambas tareas cognitivas. En el segundo experimento, con 29 participantes, estudiamos el efecto de ambas tareas sobre una tarea de búsqueda visual, usando el paradigma experimental de doble tarea. La tarea verbal presentó mayor carga mental que la de imaginería espacial cuando ambas tareas se realizaron junto con la tarea de búsqueda visual y hubo un mayor deterioro en la detección de estímulos con la tarea verbal. Concluimos que (1) las tareas cognitivas producen un importante deterioro en capacidades de búsqueda visual e identificación de estímulos visuales; (2) este deterioro tiene dos componentes: (a) búsqueda ineficiente, asociada con alteraciones del patrón de mirada mientras se desarrollan tareas cognitivas, y (b) interferencia general, no específica de códigos espaciales, en el proceso de identificación de estímulos mirados; (3) esta interferencia cognitiva está relacionada con la carga mental o esfuerzo requerido por tareas cognitivas.

Palabras clave: búsqueda visual, carga mental, interferencia perceptiva, ceguera atencional.

The study of the relations between attention and visual perception has been addressed by Von Helmholtz (1924), who concluded that perception without attention does not take place, or else it is deficient. The current approach to this phenomenon prefers the label inattentional blindness. Mack and Rock (1998) found that 25% of participants failed to detect an unexpected stimulus while they carried out another visual perception task. Goldstein (2002) defines inattentional blindness as "a situation in which an unattended stimulus is not perceived, even when the person is looking directly at it." Simons and Chabris (1999) or Most, Scholl, Clifford, and Simons (2005) indicate that a large part of this phenomenon depends on whether or not the target stimulus coincides with expectations (attentional set), that is, the number of targets detected depends on whether or not they are expected. However, one wonders why surprise is considered a key factor in these studies, because the percentage of detected targets is similar in dual-task studies even when the target stimulus is expected and the participants deliberately try to detect it (Recarte & Nunes, 2003; Recarte, Pérez, Conchillo, & Nunes, 2008). …

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