Attending to pictorial depth: electrophysiological and behavioral evidence of visuospatial attention in apparent depth

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Parks, Nathan A.
Corballis, Paul M.
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Visual attention has long been described in terms of the spotlight metaphor, which assumes that two-dimensional regions of the visual field are selectively processed. However, evidence suggests that attention can be distributed to depth in addition to two-dimensional space (Andersen and Kramer, 1993; Gawryszewski, Riggio, Rizzolatti, and Umiltà, 1987). Research supporting this idea has induced depth through binocular disparity. Thus, the results of previous research may be specific to stereoscopic stimuli and not apply generally to the perception of depth. Three experiments were conducted in order to determine if visual attention could be distributed to a non-stereoscopic apparent depth. In these experiments, the perceptual experience of depth was induced in a visual scene using only pictorial depth cues. Subjects were required to attend either a near or far depth in this scene. Experiments 1 and 2 employed electrophysiological recordings and found a reliable modulation in the amplitude of the attention sensitive visual component, P1, when subjects directed attention to far depths. Behavioral measurements in Experiment 3 supported this result, finding speeded reaction time to attended far depth stimuli. No P1 modulation or reaction time facilitation was found when the pictorial depth cues of the visual scene were attenuated. These results suggest that visual attention may be distributed to pictorial depth and are further consistent with a viewer-centered asymmetry in attending to depth.
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