Alessia Tonelli, Arezoo Pooresmaeili, Roberto Arrighi
The role of temporal and spatial attention in size adaptation
Front. Neurosci., 03 June 2020
One of the most important tasks for the visual system is to construct an internal representation of the spatial properties of objects, including their size. Size perception includes a combination of bottom-up (retinal inputs) and top-down (e.g., expectations) information, which makes the estimates of object size malleable and susceptible to numerous contextual cues. For example, it has been shown that size perception is prone to adaptation: brief previous presentations of larger or smaller adapting stimuli at the same region of space changes the perceived size of a subsequent test stimulus. Large adapting stimuli cause the test to appear smaller than its veridical size and vice versa. Here, we investigated whether size adaptation is susceptible to attentional modulation. First, we measured the magnitude of adaptation aftereffects for a size discrimination task. Then, we compared these aftereffects (on average 15–20%) with those measured while participants were engaged, during the adaptation phase, in one of the two highly demanding central visual tasks: Multiple Object Tracking (MOT) or Rapid Serial Visual Presentation (RSVP). Our results indicate that deploying visual attention away from the adapters did not significantly affect the distortions of perceived size induced by adaptation, with accuracy and precision in the discrimination task being almost identical in all experimental conditions. Taken together, these results suggest that visual attention does not play a key role in size adaptation, in line with the idea that this phenomenon can be accounted for by local gain control mechanisms within area V1.