While a single approaching object is known to attract spatial attention, it is unknown how attention is directed when the background looms towards the observer as s/he moves forward in a quasi-stationary environment. In Experiment 1, we used a cued speeded discrimination task to quantify where and how spatial attention is directed towards the target superimposed onto a cloud of moving dots. We found that when the motion was expansive, attention was attracted towards the singular point of the optic flow (the focus of expansion, FOE) in a sustained fashion. The effects were less pronounced when the motion was contractive. The more ecologically valid the motion features became (e.g., temporal expansion of each dot, spatial depth structure implied by distribution of the size of the dots), the stronger the attentional effects. Further, the attentional effects were sustained over 1000 ms. Experiment 2 quantified these attentional effects using a change detection paradigm by zooming into or out of photographs of natural scenes. Spatial attention was attracted in a sustained manner such that change detection was facilitated or delayed depending on the location of the FOE only when the motion was expansive. Our results suggest that focal attention is strongly attracted towards singular points that signal the direction of forward ego-motion. © 2012 Wang et al.
Wang, S., Fukuchi, M., Koch, C., & Tsuchiya, N. (2012). Spatial attention is attracted in a sustained fashion toward singular points in the optic flow. PLoS ONE, 7(8). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0041040