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Temporal Dynamics of Transient Attention (TDoTA)

Project overview

Visual scenes often contain many objects that appear and disappear in rapid succession. To identify a target in such an environment, attention must be allocated to the target's location at the right time. Temporally selective attention allows us to discriminate a briefly presented target from temporally adjacent distractors.

When asked to report the identity of a briefly flashed target (eg a digit), participants are usually highly accurate. However, we observed in previous studies that accuracy drops when the target is followed by a non-target that shares the target's category (eg another digit). Instead, observers often erroneously report the identity of distractors that appeared closely before or after the target. This phenomenon is called 'distractor intrusions'. Distractor intrusions challenge our understanding of temporal attention.

The Birkbeck project lead for this project is Dr Alon Zivony and it has been funded by EU Horizon 2020.

Research aim

The purpose of this project is therefore to better understand distractor intrusions and the cognitive mechanisms that underlie them.

Outcomes and outputs

  • In the short term, the main beneficiaries of this research will be other researchers of temporal attention. Understanding distractor intrusions should improve our understanding of the temporal dynamics of attention in general and develop better theories.
  • In the longer term, this project can inspire new research into practical applications. For example, different populations (eg young adults vs. old adults, adults with and without ADHD) plausibly have different rates of temporal attention. Once we better understand its underlying mechanisms, the robustness of the distractor intrusion paradigm can lend itself to research into understanding such differences between groups.