Spatial scale, rather than nature of task or locomotion, modulates the spatial reference frame of attention

Yuhong V. Jiang, Bo Yeong Won

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Visuospatial attention is strongly biased to locations that had frequently contained a search target before. However, the function of this bias depends on the reference frame in which attended locations are coded. Previous research has shown a striking difference between tasks administered on a computer monitor and those administered in a large environment, with the former inducing viewer-centered learning and the latter environment-centered learning. Why does environment-centered learning fail on a computer? Here, we tested 3 possibilities: differences in spatial scale, the nature of task, and locomotion may each influence the reference frame of attention. Participants searched for a target on a monitor placed flat on a stand. On each trial, they stood at a different location around the monitor. The target was frequently located in a fixed area of the monitor, but changes in participants' perspective rendered this area random relative to the participants. Under incidental learning conditions, participants failed to acquire environment-centered learning even when (a) the task and display resembled those of a large-scale task and (b) the search task required locomotion. The difficulty in inducing environment-centered learning on a computer underscores the egocentric nature of visual attention. It supports the idea that spatial scale modulates the reference frame of attention.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)866-878
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 1 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 American Psychological Association.


  • Implicit learning
  • Spatial attention
  • Spatial reference frame
  • Visual statistical learning


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