Attentional Mechanisms in Natural Scenes

Battistoni, Elisa (2018) Attentional Mechanisms in Natural Scenes. PhD thesis, University of Trento.

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The visual analysis of the world around us is an incredibly complex neural process that allows humans to function appropriately within the environment. When one considers the intricacy of both the visual input and the (currently known) neural mechanisms necessary for its analysis, it is difficult not to remain enchanted by the fact that, even though the signal that hits the retina has a tremendous amount of simple visual features and that is ever changing, ambiguous and incomplete, we experience the world around us in a very easy, stable and straightforward manner. So much effort has been put into the study of vision, and despite the enormous scientific advances and important findings, many questions still need answers. During my years spent as Ph.D. student, I investigated some questions related to top-down attentional mechanisms in real-world visual search. Specifically, Chapter 2 and 3 address the processing stage of preparation, by investigating the characteristics of attentional templates when preparing to search for objects in scenes; Chapter 4 addresses the stage of guidance and selection, by investigating the temporal course of spatial attention guidance; and finally, Chapter 5 addresses the identification phase, by investigating the temporal dynamics of size-constancy mechanisms in real-world scenes. To anticipate some results, we proposed that attentional templates in real-world visual search tasks are based on category-diagnostic features and code the expected target size/distance. In the context of the attentional guidance and selection stage, we demonstrate that attention spatially focuses on targets around 240ms, following category-based attentional modulations appearing at 180ms after scene onset. Finally, we propose that size constancy mechanisms appear before 200ms post-scene. This is in line with the expectation that a coarse identification of an object, including its size, should be computed before spatially focusing attention onto the target. Together these studies improve our understanding of top-down attentional processes engaged in real-world visual search, and raise some questions which future research could address.

Item Type:Doctoral Thesis (PhD)
Doctoral School:Cognitive and Brain Sciences
PhD Cycle:31
Subjects:Area 11 - Scienze storiche, filosofiche, pedagogiche e psicologiche > M-PSI/02 PSICOBIOLOGIA E PSICOLOGIA FISIOLOGICA
Repository Staff approval on:07 Dec 2018 10:34

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