Seeing, Sensing, and Scrutinizing
Ronald A. Rensink, Cambridge Basic Research, Nissan Technical Center North America, Inc., Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.

Proceedings of the 3rd Annual Vision Research Conference:83. [Ft. Lauderdale, FL USA.]

Striking changes in a scene can become effectively invisible if made during an eye movement, image flicker, movie cut, or other such disturbance. It is argued that this "change blindness" can be explained by a coherence theory of attention, which asserts that focused attention is needed to make visual representations coherent enough to support the perception of change. The notion of a virtual representation is then put forward to explain why the limited capacity of focused attention does not appear to constrain the ability of observers to form a coherent representation of the world around them.

It is argued that this framework can also explain interesting new phenomena and lead to insights into other aspects of visual perception. One example of this is the finding that observers can sometimes sense that a change is occurring before they see it. It is proposed that this "mindsight" originates from a nonattentional visual stream that operates in tandem with the attentional stream. Another example is the finding of various limits on the rate of visual search for change in arrays of simple stimuli. It is argued that these limits provide a new way to determine the nature of the attentional operations used when scrutinizing items. As such, the framework developed here not only explains change blindness—it can also be turned around to provide information about the various attentional and nonattentional mechanisms involved in visual awareness.

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