Detecting Target Changes in Multiple Object Tracking With Peripheral Vision: More Pronounced Eccentricity Effects for Changes in Form Than in Motion

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In the current study, dual-task performance is examined with multiple-object tracking as a primary task and target-change detection as a secondary task. The to-be-detected target changes in conditions of either change type (form vs. motion; Experiment 1) or change salience (stop vs. slowdown; Experiment 2), with changes occurring at either near (5°–10°) or far (15°–20°) eccentricities (Experiments 1 and 2). The aim of the study was to test whether changes can be detected solely with peripheral vision. By controlling for saccades and computing gaze distances, we could show that participants used peripheral vision to monitor the targets and, additionally, to perceive changes at both near and far eccentricities. Noticeably, gaze behavior was not affected by the actual target change. Detection rates as well as response times generally varied as a function of change condition and eccentricity, with faster detections for motion changes and near changes. However, in contrast to the effects found for motion changes, sharp declines in detection rates and increased response times were observed for form changes as a function of the eccentricities. This result can be ascribed to properties of the visual system, namely to the limited spatial acuity in the periphery and the comparably receptive motion sensitivity of peripheral vision. These findings show that peripheral vision is functional for simultaneous target monitoring and target-change detection as saccadic information suppression can be avoided and covert attention can be optimally distributed to all targets.

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