Failure to detect changes to attended objects in motion pictures

Abstract

Our intuition that we richly represent the visual details of our environment is illusory. When viewing a scene, we seem to use detailed representations of object properties and interobject relations to achieve a sense of continuity across views. Yet, several recent studies show that human observers fail to detect changes to objects and object properties when localized retinal information signaling a change is masked or eliminated (e.g., by eye movements). However, these studies changed arbitrarily chosen objects which may have been outside the focus of attention. We draw on previous research showing the importance of spatiotemporal information for tracking objects by creating short motion pictures in which objects in both arbitrary locations and the very center of attention were changed. Adult observers failed to notice changes in both cases, even when the sole actor in a scene transformed into another person across an instantaneous change in camera angle (or “cut”).

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Correspondence to Daniel T. Levin or Daniel J. Simons.

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The authors contributed equally to this report, and authorship order was determined arbitrarily. The contents of this paper were included as part of D.J.S.’s doctoral dissertation. Thanks are extended to Ulric Neisser, Romi Nijhawan, Julie Noland, Kathy Richards, Carter Smith, Michael Spivey-Knowlton, and Arthur Woll, for reading earlier drafts of this report, and to Mark Andrews, Justin Barrett, James Beale, Laura Free, Grant Gutheil, Sabina Lamsfuss, Carole Lunney, Julie Noland, Kathy Richards, and Andrea Rosati, for appearing as actors in the films. D.J.S. was supported by NSF and Jacob K. Javits fellowships.

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Levin, D.T., Simons, D.J. Failure to detect changes to attended objects in motion pictures. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review 4, 501–506 (1997). https://doi.org/10.3758/BF03214339

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Keywords

  • Change Detection
  • Object Property
  • Motion Picture
  • Camera Angle
  • Spatiotemporal Information