Direct measurement of attentional dwell time in human vision

Abstract

IN vision, attentional limitations are reflected in interference or reduced accuracy when two objects must be identified at once in a brief display1,2. In our experiments a brief temporal separation was introduced between the two objects to be identified. We measured how long the first object continued to interfere with the second, and hence the time course of the first object's attentional demand. According to conventional serial models, attention is assigned rapidly to one object after another, with a dwell time of only a few dozen milliseconds per item3,4. But we report here that interference lasts for several hundred milliseconds—an order of magnitude more than the prediction of conventional models. We suggest that visual attention is not a high-speed switching mecha-nism, but a sustained state during which relevant objects become available to influence behaviour. This conclusion is consistent with recent physiological results in the monkey5.

Access options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.

from$8.99

All prices are NET prices.

References

  1. 1

    Treisman, A. M. Psychol. Rev. 76, 282–299 (1969).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  2. 2

    Duncan, J. Psychol. Rev. 87, 272–300 (1980).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  3. 3

    Treisman, A. M. & Gelade, G. Cognitive Psychol. 12, 97–136 (1980).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  4. 4

    Bergen, J. R. & Julesz, B. Nature 303, 696–698 (1983).

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  5. 5

    Chelazzi, L., Miller, E. K., Duncan, J. & Desimone, R. Nature 363, 345–347 (1993).

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  6. 6

    Schneider, W. & Shiffrin, R. M. Psychol. Rev. 84, 1–66 (1977).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. 7

    Sperling, G., Budiansky, J., Spivak, J. G. & Johnson, M. C. Science 174, 307–311 (1971).

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  8. 8

    Townsend, J. T. Percept. Psychophys. 10, 161–163 (1971).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. 9

    Pashler, H. & Badgio, P. C. in Attention and Performance XII (ed. Coltheart, M.) 63–81 (Erlbaum, Hillsdale, NJ, 1987).

    Google Scholar 

  10. 10

    Bundesen, C. Psychol. Rev. 97, 523–547 (1990).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  11. 11

    Weichselgartner, E. & Sperling, G. Science 238, 778–780 (1987).

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  12. 12

    Posner, M. I., Walker, J. A., Friedrich, F. & Rafal, R. D. J. Neurosci. 4, 1863–1874 (1984).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  13. 13

    Fagot, C. & Pashler, H. J. exp. Psychol., hum. Percept. Perform. 18, 1058–1079 (1992).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  14. 14

    Broadbent, D. E. & Broadbent, M. H. P. Percept. Psychophys. 42, 105–113 (1987).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  15. 15

    Raymond, J. E., Shapiro, K. L. & Arnell, K. M. J. exp. Psychol., hum. Percept. Perform. 18, 849–860 (1992).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  16. 16

    Posner, M. I. Chronometric Explorations of Mind (Erlbaum, Hillsdale, NJ, 1978).

    Google Scholar 

  17. 17

    Moran, J. & Desimone, R. Science 229, 782–784 (1985).

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  18. 18

    Yantis, S. & Johnson, D. N. J. exp. Psychol., hum. Percept. Perform. 16, 812–825 (1990).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Duncan, J., Ward, R. & Shapiro, K. Direct measurement of attentional dwell time in human vision. Nature 369, 313–315 (1994). https://doi.org/10.1038/369313a0

Download citation

Comments

By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.