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Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance - Vol 43, Iss 10

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Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance The Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance publishes studies on perception, control of action, and related cognitive processes.
Copyright 2017 American Psychological Association
  • Linking contemporary research to the classics: Celebrating 125 years at APA.
    APA is celebrating 125 years this year and at the journal we are commemorating this milestone with a special issue. The inspiration came from our editorial team, who wished to acknowledge the links between game-changing articles that have influenced our research community in the past—we call them classics for short—and contemporary works. The main idea was to feature the work of nine contemporary research teams, while at the same time drawing readers’ attention to their links with the classics. In this introduction, we have organized the articles according to several broad themes: active perception, perception for action, action alters perception, perception of our bodies in action, and acting on selective perceptions. As all who have read and contributed to the journal over the past few years have come to realize, it is no longer possible to study perception without considering its role in action. Nor is it possible to study action (formerly called performance, as reflected in the journal title) without understanding the perceptual contributions to action. These nine articles each exemplify, in their own way, how these dynamic interactions play out in contemporary research in our field. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • Parafoveal preview effects in reading unspaced text.
    In English reading, eye guidance relies heavily on the spaces between words for demarcating word boundaries. In an eye tracking experiment, we examined the impact of removing spaces on parafoveal processing. Using the gaze-contingent boundary paradigm (Rayner, 1975), a high or low frequency preboundary word was followed by a postboundary preview presented either normally (i.e., identical to the postboundary word), or with letters replaced creating an orthographically illegal preview. The spaces between words were either retained or removed. Results replicate previous findings of increased reading times during unspaced reading (Rayner, Fischer, & Pollatsek, 1998) and indicate rather limited evidence for more distributed processing: Observations of processing of the previous word (spill-over effects) or processing of the next word (parafoveal-on-foveal effects) influencing fixation durations on the currently fixated word were limited. Spill-over effects were only observed in the unspaced layout when the postboundary preview was correct, presumably because the orthographically illegal, incorrect preview was visually salient enough to allow for relatively easy word segmentation and therefore more focused processing of the preboundary word. As such, results points toward a system that prefers narrowly focused processing of a single word, at least when means for easy word segmentation are available. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • The elephant in the room: Inconsistency in scene viewing and representation.
    We examined the extent to which semantic informativeness, consistency with expectations and perceptual salience contribute to object prioritization in scene viewing and representation. In scene viewing (Experiments 1–2), semantic guidance overshadowed perceptual guidance in determining fixation order, with the greatest prioritization for objects that were diagnostic of the scene’s depicted event. Perceptual properties affected selection of consistent objects (regardless of their informativeness) but not of inconsistent objects. Semantic and perceptual properties also interacted in influencing foveal inspection, as inconsistent objects were fixated longer than low but not high salience diagnostic objects. While not studied in direct competition with each other (each studied in competition with diagnostic objects), we found that inconsistent objects were fixated earlier and for longer than consistent but marginally informative objects. In change detection (Experiment 3), perceptual guidance overshadowed semantic guidance, promoting detection of highly salient changes. A residual advantage for diagnosticity over inconsistency emerged only when selection prioritization could not be based on low-level features. Overall these findings show that semantic inconsistency is not prioritized within a scene when competing with other relevant information that is essential to scene understanding and respects observers’ expectations. Moreover, they reveal that the relative dominance of semantic or perceptual properties during selection depends on ongoing task requirements. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • Visual strategies underpinning the development of visual–motor expertise when hitting a ball.
    It is well known that skilled batters in fast-ball sports do not align their gaze with the ball throughout ball-flight, but instead adopt a unique sequence of eye and head movements that contribute toward their skill. However, much of what we know about visual-motor behavior in hitting is based on studies that have employed case study designs, and/or used simplified tasks that fall short of replicating the spatiotemporal demands experienced in the natural environment. The aim of this study was to provide a comprehensive examination of the eye and head movement strategies that underpin the development of visual-motor expertise when intercepting a fast-moving target. Eye and head movements were examined in situ for 4 groups of cricket batters, who were crossed for playing level (elite or club) and age (U19 or adult), when hitting balls that followed either straight or curving (‘swinging’) trajectories. The results provide support for some widely cited markers of expertise in batting, while questioning the legitimacy of others. Swinging trajectories alter the visual-motor behavior of all batters, though in large part because of the uncertainty generated by the possibility of a variation in trajectory rather than any actual change in trajectory per se. Moreover, curving trajectories influence visual-motor behavior in a nonlinear fashion, with targets that curve away from the observer influencing behavior more than those that curve inward. The findings provide a more comprehensive understanding of the development of visual-motor expertise in interception. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • Visual regulation of gait: Zeroing in on a solution to the complex terrain problem.
    We examine the theoretical understanding of visual gait regulation that has emerged from decades of research since the publication of Lee, Lishman, and Thompson’s (1982) classic study of elite long jumpers. The first round of research identified specific informational variables, parameters of the action system, and laws of control that capture the coupling of perception and action in this context, but left unanswered important questions about why visual information is sampled in an intermittent manner and how the strategies that actors adopt ensure stability and energetic efficiency. More recent developments lead to a refined view according to which visual information is used at a specific phase of the gait cycle to modify the parameters that govern the passive dynamics of the body. We then present the results of a new experiment designed to test the prediction that when the terrain offers multiple foothold options for a given step, walkers’ choices will be constrained by a strong preference for not interfering with the natural, ballistic movement of the body throughout the single support phase of that step. The findings are consistent with this prediction and support a view of visual gait regulation that is concordant with contemporary accounts of how actors use both active and passive modes of control. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • A role for control in an action-specific effect on perception.
    According to the action-specific account of perception, people perceive the spatial layout of the environment in relation to their ability to act. Pioneering research by Bhalla and Proffitt (1999) demonstrated that hills were judged as steeper to perceivers with less physiological potential. Since this seminal work, much research has shown these action-specific effects generalize beyond hill slant perception and beyond physiological potential, but the underlying mechanisms are underspecified. The present experiments explore the potential mechanism that information about action is integrated with visual information about the target. According to an integration account, information from various sources are weighted, and the strength of these weights dictates the strength of that source of information on the resulting percept. One prediction is that it should be possible to vary the strength of the weights and thereby vary the size of a particular effect. To reduce the effect of action on perception, control over the action was taken away from participants. As predicted, losing control reduced the impact of action on spatial perception. This is the first reported instance of a partial action-specific effect, and is consistent with an integration-based mechanism. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • Rescaling of perceived space transfers across virtual environments.
    Research over the past 20 years has consistently shown that egocentric distance is underperceived in virtual environments (VEs) compared with real environments. In 2 experiments, judgments of object distance (Experiment 1) and object size (Experiment 2) improved after a brief period of walking through the VE with continuous visual feedback. Whereas improvement of blind-walking distance judgments could be attributable to recalibration of walking, improvement in perceived size is considered evidence for rescaling of perceived space, whereby perceived size and distance increased after walking interaction. Furthermore, improvements in judged distance and size transferred to a new VE. Distance judgments, but not size judgments, continued to improve after additional walking interaction in the new VE. These results have theoretical implications regarding the effects of walking interaction on perceived space, and practical implications regarding methods of improving perceived distance in VEs. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • Mapping the internal geometry of tactile space.
    A large body of research has shown spatial distortions in the perception of tactile distances on the skin. For example, perceived tactile distance is increased on sensitive compared to less sensitive skin regions, and larger for stimuli oriented along the medio-lateral axis than the proximo-distal axis of the limbs. In this study we aimed to investigate the spatial coherence of these distortions by reconstructing the internal geometry of tactile space using multidimensional scaling (MDS). Participants made verbal estimates of the perceived distance between 2 touches applied sequentially to locations on their left hand. In Experiment 1 we constructed perceptual maps of the dorsum of the left hand, which showed a good fit to the actual configuration of stimulus locations. Critically, these maps also showed clear evidence of spatial distortion, being stretched along the medio-lateral hand axis. Experiment 2 replicated this result and showed that no such distortion is apparent on the palmar surface of the hand. These results show that distortions in perceived tactile distance can be characterized by geometrically simple and coherent deformations of tactile space. We suggest that the internal geometry of tactile space is shaped by the geometry of receptive fields in somatosensory cortex. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • Conjunction search is relational: Behavioral and electrophysiological evidence.
    Attention selects behaviorally relevant stimuli for further capacity-limited processing and gates their access to awareness. Given the importance of attention for conscious perception, it is important to determine the factors and mechanisms that drive attention. A widespread view is that attention is biased to the specific feature values of a conjunction target (e.g., vertical, red, medium). By contrast, the results of the present study show that attention is tuned to the 2 relative features that distinguish a conjunction target from the irrelevant nontargets (e.g., larger and bluer). Moreover, an irrelevant conjunction cue that is briefly presented prior to the target can automatically attract attention, even in the absence of any feature contrasts. Importantly, automatic orienting to the conjunction cue was completely independent of the physical similarity between cue and target, and depended only on whether the conjunction cue matched the relative features of the target. These results demonstrate that attentional orienting is determined by a mechanism that can rapidly extract information about feature relationships and guide attention to the stimulus that best matches the relative attributes of the target. These results are difficult to reconcile with extant feature-specific accounts or object-based accounts of attention and argue for a relational account of conjunction search. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • More than a filter: Feature-based attention regulates the distribution of visual working memory resources.
    Across 2 experiments we revisited the filter account of how feature-based attention regulates visual working memory (VWM). Originally drawing from discrete-capacity (“slot”) models, the filter account proposes that attention operates like the “bouncer in the brain,” preventing distracting information from being encoded so that VWM resources are reserved for relevant information. Given recent challenges to the assumptions of discrete-capacity models, we investigated whether feature-based attention plays a broader role in regulating memory. Both experiments used partial report tasks in which participants memorized the colors of circle and square stimuli, and we provided a feature-based goal by manipulating the likelihood that 1 shape would be probed over the other across a range of probabilities. By decomposing participants’ responses using mixture and variable-precision models, we estimated the contributions of guesses, nontarget responses, and imprecise memory representations to their errors. Consistent with the filter account, participants were less likely to guess when the probed memory item matched the feature-based goal. Interestingly, this effect varied with goal strength, even across high probabilities where goal-matching information should always be prioritized, demonstrating strategic control over filter strength. Beyond this effect of attention on which stimuli were encoded, we also observed effects on how they were encoded: Estimates of both memory precision and nontarget errors varied continuously with feature-based attention. The results offer support for an extension to the filter account, where feature-based attention dynamically regulates the distribution of resources within working memory so that the most relevant items are encoded with the greatest precision. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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