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Master of Science (M.S.)
Year Degree Awarded
Month Degree Awarded
attention, visual attention, awareness, animal recognition, object recognition, focussed attention
A key question in the investigation of awareness is whether it can occur without attention, or vice versa. Most evidence to date suggests that attention is necessary for awareness of visual stimuli, but that attention can sometimes be present without corresponding aware-ness. However, there has been some evidence that natural scenes in general, and in particular scenes including animals, may not require visual attention for a participant to become aware of their gist. One relatively recent paradigm for providing evidence for animal awareness without attention (Li, VanRullen, Koch, & Perona, 2002) requires participants to perform an attention demanding primary task while also determining whether a photograph displayed briefly in the periphery contains an animal as a secondary task. However, Cohen, Alvarez, and Nakayama (2011) questioned whether the primary task in these experiments used up all the available attentional capacity. Their experiments used a more demanding primary task to be sure attention really was not available for the image-recognition task, and the results indicated that attention was contributing to the animal detection task. However, in addition to changing the primary task, they displayed the stimuli for the two tasks superimposed on each other in the same area of the visual field. The experiment reported here is similar to the one by Cohen et al., but with the stimuli for the two tasks separated spatially. Animal recognition with separated stimuli was impaired by additionally performing the attention-demanding task, leaving no good evidence that it is possible to recognize natural scenes without attention, in turn removing this support for awareness without attention.