Visual Attention and Motion
The human observer is quite efficient at detecting motion. If a target is detectable when still, it becomes even more so when it is in motion. The brain uses multiple cues to help us perceive motion including information from all of our senses. The focus of this paper will be the visual system and how motion is perceived visually. Motion is in part perceived by the changing patterns of light on the retina. This cannot account for total motion perception, however, because we can perceive motion while keeping an image stable on our retina or create changes in these light patterns by moving our head and eyes. In order to turn these spatial patterns of light into information about motion we must integrate and interpret visual information. We use motion as a cue for grouping objects in the environment together and the motion of one thing can have an effect on the way other things are perceived to move. Things that move together are seen as belonging together and things that are near to objects in motion can be perceived to be in motion themselves. Then we use motion to interpret visual information in our environment. For instance, dots moving together in various patterns can create a percept of a 3-D object; dots moving in certain patterns can create the percept of a human or animal in motion even without lines connecting to create the form. You can also change the perception of how an object is moving by changing the focus of your attention. (Mather, 1998)
Attention is one of those words like “anti-social” where the common use may or may not have any relation to its use in the realm of psychology. On any given day, one is likely to say or be told to “pay attention.” This is especially true of conversations between adults and children. However, trying to study and quantify attention can create a quandary. What is it exactly? How does it work? Even Webster is of little help. If you look it up in the dictionary you will find an entry that states “to keep one’s mind on something.” That would describe the phrase “to pay attention” or “to attend,” but one is still left wondering what is the mechanism of attention. Some researchers don’t even like to use the word attention because it is difficult to say exactly what the term is meant to identify (Pashler, 1998; Thornton & Gilden, 2001; Watamaniuk & McKee, 1995, 1998).
According to H. E. Pashler (1998) there are “(two primary ideas) that characterize attention: selectivity and capacity limitation.” That is, at any given moment in time we are receiving a great deal of perceptual information and because we can become overwhelmed by trying to do too much at once we must select the part of our environment that is relevant at that particular moment. Pashler goes on to identify “core phenomena addressed by attention research: selectivity of perception, voluntary control over this selectivity, and capacity limits in mental functioning that...