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Developmental Seminar Series: Meaghan Altman

October 8, 2014 - 2:00pm to 3:30pm


The selective nature of visual attention prioritizes objects in a scene that are most perceptually salient, those relevant to personal goals, and animate objects. Here we present data from two intentional change detection studies designed to determine the extent to which animals in a scene distract from other changes. Our stimuli depicted camouflaged animals in their natural habitats. We compared participants’ responses to changing animals and inanimate objects selected from the same pictures, thus improving on other methodologies studying this effect. Experiment 1 results suggest that animals are noticed rapidly and accurately, even when they share bottom-up features with the rest of the scene. Additionally, the unchanging presence of camouflaged animals distract from detecting inanimate changes. Experiment 2 employed Signal Detection Theory (SDT) to measure the sensitivity (d’) and response bias (β) related to changing animate versus inanimate stimuli. Experiment 2 outcomes indicate that participants tend to adopt a liberal response bias and are most sensitive to animate changes. Presence of an animal in a scene also influences sensitivity (d’) when participants had to attend to and notice inanimate changes. Our findings are interpreted as additional support for the animate-monitoring hypothesis which suggests that early detection of animacy may have endowed our hunter-gather ancestors with survival advantages.


SSM 217

Contact Information

Alexandra Main