"Object Based Attention in Visual Word Processing"

  • Gavin F. Revie

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    This thesis focusses on whether words are treated like visual objects by the human attentional system. Previous research has shown an attentional phenomenon that is associated specifically with objects: this is known as “object based attention” (e.g. Egly, Driver & Rafal, 1994). This is where drawing a participant’s attention (cuing) to any part of a visual object facilitates target detection at non-cued locations within that object. That is, the cue elevates visual attention across the whole object. The primary objective of this thesis was to demonstrate this effect using words instead of objects. The main finding of this thesis is that this effect can indeed be found within English words – but only when they are presented in their canonical horizontal orientation. The effect is also highly sensitive to the type of cue and target used. Cues which draw attention to the “wholeness” of the word appear to amplify the object based effect. A secondary finding of this thesis is that under certain circumstances participants apply some form of attentional mapping to words which respects the direction of reading. Participants are faster (or experience less cost) when prompted to move their attention in accord with reading direction than against. This effect only occurs when the word stimuli are used repeatedly during the course of the experiment. The final finding of this thesis is that both the object based attentional effect and the reading direction effect described above can be found using either real words or a non-lexical stimulus: specifically symbol strings. This strongly implies that these phenomena are not exclusively associated with word stimuli, but are instead associated with lower level visual processing. Nonetheless, it is considered highly likely that these processes are involved in the day to day process of reading.
    Date of Award2015
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorYuki Kamide (Supervisor), Martin Fischer (Supervisor) & Wayne Murray (Supervisor)


    • Cognitive Psychology
    • Attention
    • Reading
    • Object Based
    • English

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