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Psychol Sci. 2011 Dec;22(12):1600-8. doi: 10.1177/0956797611422543. Epub 2011 Nov 17.

Selective attention warps spatial representation: parallel but opposing effects on attended versus inhibited objects.

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Department of Psychology, Yale University, Box 208205, New Haven, CT 06520-8205, USA.


Selective attention not only influences which objects in a display are perceived, but also directly changes the character of how they are perceived--for example, making attended objects appear larger or sharper. In studies of multiple-object tracking and probe detection, we explored the influence of sustained selective attention on where objects are seen to be in relation to each other in dynamic multi-object displays. Surprisingly, we found that sustained attention can warp the representation of space in a way that is object-specific: In immediate recall of the positions of objects that have just disappeared, space between targets is compressed, whereas space between distractors is expanded. These effects suggest that sustained attention can warp spatial representation in unexpected ways.

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