Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Viewers Can Learn A Lot About Objects In Their Field Of Vision, Even Without Paying Attention

Date:
March 30, 2009
Source:
University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston
Summary:
Contrary to a common belief on attention, visual learning study indicates that viewers can learn a great deal about objects in their field of vision even without paying attention.

A visual learning study by scientists at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston indicates that viewers can learn a great deal about objects in their field of vision even without paying attention. 

Contrary to common belief, attention may actually impair the ability of people to draw conclusions based on the visual images or stimuli they observe, reports Valentin Dragoi, Ph.D., the study’s senior author and an assistant professor at The University of Texas Medical School at Houston.

“Even when you ignore environmental stimuli, your brain may still be sensitive to their content and store information that will influence subsequent decisions,” Dragoi said. “Paradoxically, paying attention may actually reduce learning during repeated exposure to visual images.”

This new insight into visual attention could lead to novel teaching strategies to help people with sensory impairment after stroke or attention deficit disorder, Dragoi said.

Six people participated in the multiple-day study designed to measure the ability of human subjects to process visual stimuli in the absence of attention.

Participants were asked to stare at a dot in the center of a computer monitor while paying attention to one flashing stimulus and ignoring another. To make sure they were paying attention, study subjects were asked to press the spacebar when the stimulus they were concentrating on varied in contrast.

In the subsequent sessions, participants were tested to see how well they could detect changes in the angles of the flashing stimulus at both the location they were supposed to attend and the one they were supposed to ignore. The flashing stimulus in the exposure part of the study was a circle with parallel bars. It was later replaced with fifteen natural images.

“Surprisingly when subjects were tested for their ability to discriminate fine orientation differences between new stimuli, their learning performance was greater at the unattended location,” Dragoi said. “That is, ignoring the stimuli presented over days of exposure was more effective than actually attending them. We believe this finding can be explained by the fact that, typically, attention filters out unwanted stimuli so they are not consciously processed. However, in the absence of attention, stimuli are able to escape the attentional mechanisms and induce robust learning after multiple exposures.”

The next step, according to Dragoi, is to learn more about the neurophysiological mechanisms associated with this phenomenon, as well as to conduct additional experiments to investigate the generality of the findings. “The same could hold true with other sensory modalities, such as auditory or tactile,” he said.

“It is conceivable that the brain has developed mechanisms to take advantage of the signals outside the spotlight of attention. … Although it is well accepted that ‘practice makes perfect,’ we show here that robust learning can arise from passive, effortless exposure to elementary stimuli,” the authors wrote.

“Our visual systems have evolved during millions of years,” said Diego Gutnisky, lead author and a graduate research assistant at The University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Houston (GSBS). “For instance, inhabitants in the poles can discriminate different white hues better than other people who are not commonly exposed to predominantly white environments. In this way, the visual system can learn, without the requirement of attention, to extract the most relevant features of the environment to be more efficient at representing it internally.”


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Gutnisky et al. Attention Alters Visual Plasticity during Exposure-Based Learning. Current Biology, 2009; DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2009.01.063

Cite This Page:

University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. "Viewers Can Learn A Lot About Objects In Their Field Of Vision, Even Without Paying Attention." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 30 March 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/03/090325150619.htm>.
University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. (2009, March 30). Viewers Can Learn A Lot About Objects In Their Field Of Vision, Even Without Paying Attention. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 25, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/03/090325150619.htm
University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. "Viewers Can Learn A Lot About Objects In Their Field Of Vision, Even Without Paying Attention." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/03/090325150619.htm (accessed July 25, 2014).

Share This




More Mind & Brain News

Friday, July 25, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Beatings and Addiction: Pakistan Drug 'clinic' Tortures Patients

Beatings and Addiction: Pakistan Drug 'clinic' Tortures Patients

AFP (July 24, 2014) — A so-called drugs rehab 'clinic' is closed down in Pakistan after police find scores of ‘patients’ chained up alleging serial abuse. Duration 03:05 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
New Painkiller Designed To Discourage Abuse: Will It Work?

New Painkiller Designed To Discourage Abuse: Will It Work?

Newsy (July 24, 2014) — The FDA approved Targiniq ER on Wednesday, a painkiller designed to keep users from abusing it. Like any new medication, however, it has doubters. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Can Watching TV Make You Feel Like A Failure?

Can Watching TV Make You Feel Like A Failure?

Newsy (July 24, 2014) — A study by German researchers claims watching TV while you're stressed out can make you feel guilty and like a failure. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
China's Ageing Millions Look Forward to Bleak Future

China's Ageing Millions Look Forward to Bleak Future

AFP (July 24, 2014) — China's elderly population is expanding so quickly that children struggle to look after them, pushing them to do something unexpected in Chinese society- move their parents into a nursing home. Duration: 02:07 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

    Health News

      Environment News

        Technology News



          Save/Print:
          Share:  

          Free Subscriptions


          Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

          Get Social & Mobile


          Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

          Have Feedback?


          Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
          Mobile iPhone Android Web
          Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
          Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
          Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins