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Linking percetual animacy to visual attention

WorkgroupRealistic Depictions Lab
Duration 06/2010-03/2022
FundingLeibniz Graduate School for Knowledge Media Research, budget resources of KMRC & Research Network
Project description

Human observers tend to perceive simple geometric shapes that move spatio-temporarilly coordinated as if they were alive (Heider & Simmel, 1944, The American Journal of Psychology, 57, 243-259). This phenomenon is called perceptual animacy. Although perceptual animacy has been studied for over 60 years, it has not yet been linked to other psychological concepts such as attention. This research gap arises from difficulties in quantifying animate impressions.

The aim of this project was to link spatial and temporal features of perceptual animacy to visual attention. We combined paradigms from research on visual attention with depictions of abstract patterns of intentional motion (Gao, Newman & Scholl, 2009, Cognitive Psychology, 59, 154-179). Up to now, our results showed that detecting intentional motion pattern is a two-stage process. First, spatial attributes of the patterns of motion - such as the reduced spatial distance between interacting objects - guide visual attention toward the relevant stimuli. Only thereafter, the intentional content arises from the attended objects.


Meyerhoff, H. S., Schwan, S., & Huff, M. (2018). Oculomotion Mediates Attentional Guidance Toward Temporarily Close Objects. Visual Cognition, 26, 166-178. request document

Meyerhoff, H.S., Schwan, S., & Huff, M. (2014). Interobject spacing explains the attentional bias toward interacting objects. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 21, 412-417. request document

Meyerhoff, H.S., Schwan, S., & Huff, M. (2014). Perceptual animacy: Visual search for chasing objects among distractors. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 40, 702-717. request document

Meyerhoff, H.S., Huff, M., & Schwan, S. (2013). Linking perceptual animacy to attention: Evidence from the chasing detection paradigm. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 39, 1003-1015. request document