This study demonstrates that a perceptual illusion that alters the perceived length of two lines also affects spatial attention. We used a cuing method that was introduced to study space- versus object-based attention. Two parallel lines of equal length were placed so that the distance between them was equal to the length of the lines. We then added a scene with depth cues to produce a strong illusion that one line was longer than the other. The results showed that spatial attention is distributed in space as it is perceived and altered by perceptual organization. These data have implications for assumptions concerning the spatial medium that guides attention and the role of depth and distance cues in spatial orienting, as well as for understanding attentional systems related to neuropsychological functions that respond to space and objects.
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We wish to thank Bill Prinzmetal for his help with locating an illusion that was strong enough to produce large differences in perceived length of the critical lines and Lisa Barnes for her comments on a previous draft and for collecting pilot data. The present research was supported by a Veterans Administration Research Scientist award and by a grant award from the National Institute of Mental Health (MH55682), both to the first author.
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