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Unformatted text preview: Category-specific attention for animals reflects ancestral priorities, not expertise Joshua New* †‡ , Leda Cosmides*, and John Tooby* *Center for Evolutionary Psychology, University of California, Santa Barbara, CA 93106; and † Department of Psychology, Yale University, New Haven, CT 06520 Edited by Gordon H. Orians, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, and approved August 10, 2007 (received for review May 3, 2007) Visual attention mechanisms are known to select information to process based on current goals, personal relevance, and lower- level features. Here we present evidence that human visual atten- tion also includes a high-level category-specialized system that monitors animals in an ongoing manner. Exposed to alternations between complex natural scenes and duplicates with a single change (a change-detection paradigm), subjects are substantially faster and more accurate at detecting changes in animals relative to changes in all tested categories of inanimate objects, even vehicles, which they have been trained for years to monitor for sudden life-or-death changes in trajectory. This animate monitor- ing bias could not be accounted for by differences in lower-level visual characteristics, how interesting the target objects were, experience, or expertise, implicating mechanisms that evolved to direct attention differentially to objects by virtue of their mem- bership in ancestrally important categories, regardless of their current utility. animacy category specificity domain specificity evolutionary psychology visual attention V isual attention is an umbrella term for the set of operations that select some portions of a scene, rather than others, for more extensive processing. These operations evolved because some categories of information in the visual environment were likely to be more important or time-sensitive than others for activities that contributed to an organism’s survival or repro- duction. The selection criteria that direct visual attention can be categorized by their origin: ( i ) goal-derived: criteria activated volitionally in response to a transient internally represented goal; ( ii ) ancestrally derived: criteria so generally useful for a species, generation after generation, that natural selection favored mech- anisms that cause them to develop in a species-typical manner; and ( iii ) expertise-derived: criteria extracted during ontogeny by evolved mechanisms specialized for detecting which perceptual cues predict information that enhances task performance. These three types of criteria may also interact; for example, differential experience or temporary goals could calibrate or elaborate ancestrally derived criteria built into the attentional architecture....
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This note was uploaded on 11/09/2010 for the course ANTHRO 111456202 taught by Professor Josephmanson during the Spring '10 term at UCLA.
- Spring '10