Much of our world changes smoothly in time, yet the allocation of attention is typically studied with sudden changes – transients. A sizeable lag in selecting feature information is seen when stimuli change smoothly. Yet this lag is not seen with temporally uncorrelated rapid serial visual presentation (RSVP) stimuli. This suggests that temporal autocorrelation of a feature paradoxically increases the latency at which information is sampled. To test this, participants are asked to report the color of a disk when a cue was presented. There is an increase in selection latency when the disk’s color changed smoothly compared to randomly. This increase is due to the smooth color change presented after the cue rather than extrapolated predictions based on the color changes presented before. These results support an attentional drag theory, whereby attentional engagement is prolonged when features change smoothly. A computational model provides insights into the potential underlying neural mechanisms.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- General Chemistry
- General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
- General Physics and Astronomy