Attentional modulation of threshold sensitivity to first-order motion and second-order motion patters

Harriet Allen, T Ledgeway

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

19 Citations (Scopus)


Previous studies [e.g. Vision Research 40 (2000) 173] have shown that when observers are required to selectively attend to one of two, spatially-adjacent patches containing either first-order (luminance-defined) or second-order (contrast-defined) motion, threshold sensitivity for identifying the direction of second-order motion, but not first-order motion, is enhanced for the attended stimuli. The processing of second-order motion, unlike first-order motion, may, therefore, require attention. However, other studies have found little evidence for differential effects of attention on the processing of first-order and second-order motion [Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science 42(4) (2001) 5061]. We investigated the effects of attention instructions on the ability of observers to identify the directions and spatial orientations of luminance-defined and contrast-defined motion stimuli. Pairs of motion stimuli were presented simultaneously and threshold performance was measured over a wide range of drift temporal frequencies and stimulus durations. We found: (1) direction discrimination thresholds for attended motion stimuli were lower than those for unattended stimuli for both types of motion. The magnitude of this effect was reduced when the observers were not given prior knowledge of which patch of motion (attended or unattended) they had to judge first. (2) Direction discrimination for first-order motion was similarly affected at all temporal frequencies and durations examined, but for second-order motion the effects of attention depended critically on the drift temporal frequency and stimulus duration used. (3) Orientation discrimination showed little or no influence of attention instructions. Thus, whether or not attention influences the processing of second-order motion depends crucially on the precise stimulus parameters tested. Furthermore under appropriate conditions the processing of first-order motion is also influenced by attention, albeit to a lesser extent than second-order motion. (C) 2003 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2927-2936
Number of pages10
JournalVision Research
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2003


  • first-order motion
  • direction discrimination
  • second-order motion
  • attention


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