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Attention induces conservative subjective biases in visual perception

Nature Neuroscience volume 14, pages 15131515 (2011) | Download Citation

Abstract

Although attention usually enhances perceptual sensitivity, we found that it can also lead to relatively conservative detection biases and lower visibility ratings in discrimination tasks. These results are explained by a model in which attention reduces the trial-by-trial variability of the perceptual signal, and we determined how this model led to the observed behavior. These findings may partially reflect our impression of 'seeing' the whole visual scene despite our limited processing capacity outside of the focus of attention.

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Acknowledgements

H.L. received funding from the Human Frontiers Science Project (Short-Term Fellowship) and the Templeton Foundation (grant number 21569).

Author information

Affiliations

  1. Department of Psychology, Columbia University, New York, New York, USA.

    • Dobromir Rahnev
    • , Brian Maniscalco
    • , Tashina Graves
    • , Elliott Huang
    •  & Hakwan Lau
  2. Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behavior, Radboud University Nijmegen, Nijmegen, Netherlands.

    • Dobromir Rahnev
    • , Floris P de Lange
    •  & Hakwan Lau
  3. Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland, USA.

    • Tashina Graves

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Contributions

D.R. conducted the experiments, analyzed the data and wrote the manuscript. B.M. performed the model fitting and comparison. T.G. and E.H. helped with data collection and conducted some of the control studies. F.P.d.L. conducted the eye-tracking control study. H.L. conceived the experiments, supervised the project, analyzed the data and wrote the paper.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Dobromir Rahnev or Hakwan Lau.

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    Supplementary Text and Figures

    Supplementary Figures 1–8 and Supplementary Methods

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DOI

https://doi.org/10.1038/nn.2948

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