Study: Attention can impair perception

September 12, 2006

We normally think of paying attention to an object as a way to better perceive it, but U.S. scientists say sustained attention might worsen perception.

Previous work has suggested attention makes a visual stimulus easier to see by effectively increasing its contrast. However, contrast sensitivity decreases after prolonged periods of looking at high-contrast stimuli.

New York University researcher Samuel Ling and colleagues showed people black and white stripes and then asked them to report whether the stripes leaned to the left or the right; this task is harder to do when the contrast between the stripes is lower.

The researchers found when people paid attention to a particular set of stripes, they could initially do the task even with low-contrast stripes. However, after a prolonged period of attention, people needed higher-contrast stimuli to succeed at the same task.

The researchers say their results indicate prolonged periods of attention to specific stimuli might eventually impair, rather than improve, perception.

The study is presented in the October issue of the journal Nature Neuroscience.

Copyright 2006 by United Press International

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Graphene made superconductive by doping with lithium atoms

September 2, 2015

(Phys.org)—A team of researchers from Germany and Canada has found a way to make graphene superconductive—by doping it with lithium atoms. In their paper they have uploaded to the preprint server arXiv, the team describes ...

Probing the limits of wind power generation

September 2, 2015

(Phys.org)—Wind turbine farms now account for an estimated 3.3 percent of electricity generation in the United States, and 2.9 percent of electricity generated globally. The wind turbine industry is growing along all vectors, ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.