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Switching between global and local scopes of attention is resisted near the hands

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Recently, several changes in perception, attention, and visual working memory have been reported when stimuli are near to compared to far from the hands, suggesting that such stimuli receive enhanced scrutiny. A mechanism that inhibits the disengagement of attention from objects near the hands, thus forcing a more thorough inspection, has been proposed to underlie such effects. Up until now, this possibility has been tested only in a limited number of tasks. In the present study we examined whether changes in one's global or local attentional scope are similarly affected by hand proximity. Participants analysed stimuli according to either their global shape or the shape of their constituent local elements while holding their hands near to or far from the stimuli. Switches between global and local processing were markedly slower near the hands, reflecting an attentional mechanism that compels an observer to more fully evaluate objects near their hands by inhibiting changes in attentional scope. Such a mechanism may be responsible for some of the changes observed in other tasks, and reveals the special status conferred to objects near the hands.

Keywords: Embodied Cognition; Global/Local Processing; Selective attention; Task Switching; Visual attention

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Department of Psychology,University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame,IN, USA 2: State Key Laboratory of Brain and Cognitive Science,Institute of Psychology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China 3: Department of Psychology,Washington University, St. Louis,MO, USA

Publication date: June 1, 2012

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