Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Seeing isn't believing: Intense focus on objects can distort perception of where things are

Date:
September 7, 2011
Source:
Association for Psychological Science
Summary:
Pay attention! It's a universal warning, which implies that keeping close watch helps us perceive the world more accurately. But a new study by cognitive psychologists finds that intense focus on objects can have the opposite effect: It distorts perception of where things are in relation to one another.

Pay attention! It's a universal warning, which implies that keeping close watch helps us perceive the world more accurately. But a new study by Yale University cognitive psychologists Brandon Liverence and Brian Scholl finds that intense focus on objects can have the opposite effect: It distorts perception of where things are in relation to one another.

The findings will be published in an upcoming issue of Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

"Figuring out where objects are in the world seems like one of the most basic and important jobs the brain does," says Liverence, a graduate student. "It was surprising to discover that even this simple type of perception is warped by our minds." The researchers studied such distortions when people had to focus their attention on some objects, but not others. When they did this, Liverence explains, the "attended objects" were seen as closer together than they really were, while the other objects were seen as farther apart than they really were.

To test this phenomenon, the researchers had people -- 10 in each of three experiments -- complete simple visual tasks. In the one with the most striking results, participants watched four circles as they moved around on a computer monitor while rapidly changing colors. Before the movement began, two of the circles flashed several times; these were the "targets." During the ensuing motion, the participants had to press a key whenever either of those targets turned red or blue. Then, after several seconds of motion, all of the circles disappeared, and the participants clicked with a mouse on the locations they'd last seen the circles.

The subjects located the objects with high accuracy -- good news, says Liverence, for people trying to cross the street. But their errors were not random. Instead, the researchers discovered two distortions -- one expected, one surprising. As in past research, the reported locations of the circles were all compressed slightly toward the center of the display, as if the mind's representation of the world were slightly shrunk. Beyond this global distortion, though, subjects remembered the two target circles as closer to each other than they actually were (as if they were attracting each other), and reported the other two circles as farther apart than they'd been (as if they were repelling each other).

The findings add to a growing body of cognitive psychology that destabilizes our trust in what we think we know for sure and how we think we can know it more surely. "Attention is the way our minds connect with things in the environment, enabling us to see, remember, and interact with those things," says Liverence. "We tend to think that attention clarifies what's out there. But it also distorts."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Association for Psychological Science. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Association for Psychological Science. "Seeing isn't believing: Intense focus on objects can distort perception of where things are." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 7 September 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/09/110907144014.htm>.
Association for Psychological Science. (2011, September 7). Seeing isn't believing: Intense focus on objects can distort perception of where things are. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/09/110907144014.htm
Association for Psychological Science. "Seeing isn't believing: Intense focus on objects can distort perception of where things are." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/09/110907144014.htm (accessed April 23, 2014).

Share This



More Mind & Brain News

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Study Says Most Crime Not Linked To Mental Illness

Study Says Most Crime Not Linked To Mental Illness

Newsy (Apr. 22, 2014) — A new study finds most crimes committed by people with mental illness are not caused by symptoms of their illness or disorder. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
How Smaller Plates And Cutlery Could Make You Feel Fuller

How Smaller Plates And Cutlery Could Make You Feel Fuller

Newsy (Apr. 22, 2014) — NBC's "Today" conducted an experiment to see if changing the size of plates and utensils affects the amount individuals eat. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Do We Get Nicer With Age?

Do We Get Nicer With Age?

Newsy (Apr. 22, 2014) — A recent report claims personality can change over time as we age, and usually that means becoming nicer and more emotionally stable. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
How to Master Motherhood With the Best Work/Life Balance

How to Master Motherhood With the Best Work/Life Balance

TheStreet (Apr. 22, 2014) — In the U.S., there are more than 11 million couples trying to conceive at any given time. From helping celebrity moms like Bethanny Frankel to ordinary soon-to-be-moms, TV personality and parenting expert, Rosie Pope, gives you the inside scoop on mastering motherhood. London-born entrepreneur Pope is the creative force behind Rosie Pope Maternity and MomPrep. She explains why being an entrepreneur offers the best life balance for her and tips for all types of moms. Video provided by TheStreet
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