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Psychon Bull Rev. 2013 Dec;20(6):1213-20. doi: 10.3758/s13423-013-0455-7.

Attention is biased to near surfaces.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, University of Montreal, Pavillon Marie-Victorin, 90 Avenue Vincent d'Indy, Montreal, Quebec, H2V 2S9, Canada,


It is thought that attention is allocated to figural items over adjacent ground stimuli. It is unclear which attribute of figures drives any previously observed attentional effects (e.g., nearness or shapedness). Moreover, it is unclear whether previous attentional effects are automatic or strategy driven. In the present series of experiments, we tested whether attention is allocated to the nearer of two surfaces under condition where near/far was not confounded with shaped/shapelessness. Using a temporal order judgment paradigm, in the first experiment, we showed that attention is allocated to the nearer of two surfaces. Furthermore, by using the stimuli themselves as the temporal order probe in Experiment 2, we found that this effect is independent of previous attentional allocation across the visual field. A third experiment ruled out the possibility that lateral inhibition by the pretarget backdrop was responsible for attentional bias toward near surfaces. Overall, our results converge to show that near surfaces attract attention.

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