Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics

, Volume 81, Issue 2, pp 442–461 | Cite as

The attentional repulsion effect and relative size judgments

  • Francesca C. FortenbaughEmail author
  • Alexander Sugarman
  • Lynn C. Robertson
  • Michael Esterman


Rapid shifts of involuntary attention have been shown to induce mislocalizations of nearby objects. One pattern of mislocalization, termed the Attentional Repulsion Effect (ARE), occurs when the onset of peripheral pre-cues lead to perceived shifts of subsequently presented stimuli away from the cued location. While the standard ARE configuration utilizes vernier lines, to date, all previous ARE studies have only assessed distortions along one direction and tested one spatial dimension (i.e., position or shape). The present study assessed the magnitude of the ARE using a novel stimulus configuration. Across three experiments participants judged which of two rectangles on the left or right side of the display appeared wider or taller. Pre-cues were used in Experiments 1 and 2. Results show equivalent perceived expansions in the width and height of the pre-cued rectangle in addition to baseline asymmetries in left/right relative size under no-cue conditions. Altering cue locations led to shifts in the perceived location of the same rectangles, demonstrating distortions in perceived shape and location using the same stimuli and cues. Experiment 3 demonstrates that rectangles are perceived as larger in the periphery compared to fixation, suggesting that eye movements cannot account for results from Experiments 1 and 2. The results support the hypothesis that the ARE reflects a localized, symmetrical warping of visual space that impacts multiple aspects of spatial and object perception.


Attentional repulsion effect Visual space Size perception Exogenous attention Involuntary attention Pseudoneglect 



We thank Laura Meier for help with data collection. This research was supported in part by the Department of Veterans Affairs. F.C.F has a Career Development award from the Department of Veterans Affairs Rehabilitation Research and Development (1IK2RX002268-01A2). M.S.E. has a Career Development award from the Department of Veterans Affairs Clinical Sciences Research and Development (1IK2CX000706-01A2). The contents within do not represent the views of the Department of Veterans Affairs or the United States government.


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Copyright information

© This is a U.S. government work and its text is not subject to copyright protection in the United States; however, its text may be subject to foreign copyright protection  2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Francesca C. Fortenbaugh
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Alexander Sugarman
    • 1
  • Lynn C. Robertson
    • 3
  • Michael Esterman
    • 1
    • 4
  1. 1.GRECC & Research Services, Department of Veterans AffairsVA Boston Healthcare SystemBostonUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychiatryHarvard Medical SchoolBostonUSA
  3. 3.Department of PsychologyUniversity of CaliforniaBerkeleyUSA
  4. 4.Department of PsychiatryBoston University School of MedicineBostonUSA

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