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The role of eye fixations in concentration and amplification effects during multiple object tracking

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When tracking spatially extended objects in a multiple object tracking task, attention is preferentially directed to the centres of those objects (attentional concentration), and this effect becomes more pronounced as object length increases (attentional amplification). However, it is unclear whether these effects depend on differences in attentional allocation or differences in eye fixations. We addressed this question by measuring eye fixations in a dual-task paradigm that required participants to track spatially extended objects, while simultaneously detecting probes that appeared at the centres or near the endpoints of objects. Consistent with previous research, we observed concentration and amplification effects: Probes at the centres of objects were detected more readily than those near their endpoints, and this difference increased with object length. Critically, attentional concentration was observed when probes were equated for distance from fixation during free viewing, and concentration and amplification were observed without eye movements during strict fixation. We conclude that these effects reflect the prioritization of covert attention to particular spatial regions within extended objects, and we discuss the role of eye fixations during multiple object tracking.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: University of Delaware, Newark, DE, USA 2: Yale University, New Haven, CT, USA

Publication date: 2008-02-01

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