Research

Non-conscious effects of peripheral information on visual orienting
We have been interested for some time in the way in which peripheral information influences movements of attention. Previous research has suggested that visual orienting can occur in two ways: either under voluntary control, or reflexively in response to salient visual changes in the periphery. Work from my laboratory suggests that this simple dichotomy between reflexive and voluntary orienting does not do justice to the exquisite design of the human perceptual system. Several conclusions can be drawn from our recent research:

  • visual orienting can be influenced not only by the gross visual changes that elicit reflexive orienting, but also by the nature of information appearing in the periphery
  • individuals can orient appropriately in response to peripheral information while remaining unaware of the utility of that information in guiding the attention shift
  • individuals can orient appropriately in response to peripheral stimuli, while remaining unaware that any stimulus at all has been presented
  • visual orienting can be influenced not only by the visual form of briefly presented peripheral objects, but also by semantic characteristics of the object

Our current research in this area is using EEG and behavioural methods to explore the contributions of the dorsal and ventral visual streams to visual orienting and conscious perception.