The Automaticity of Perceiving Animacy
Below are demonstrations of the various conditions and phenomena reported in the following paper:
van Buren, B., Uddenberg, S., & Scholl, B. J. (2016). The automaticity of perceiving animacy: Goal-directed motion in simple shapes influences visuomotor behavior even when task-irrelevant. Psychonomic Bulletin and Review, 23, 797-802. PDF
Here we explored how perceiving animacy may influence behavior. We developed a novel 'foraging' task in which subjects used their cursor to collect food dots which appeared sequentially at random locations. When several darts turned to point toward the cursor, subjects moved more slowly. The darts were irrelevant to the task, but subjects could not resist their influence. We conclude that animacy is computed automatically.
This research was conducted in collaboration with Stefan Uddenberg.
Condition 1: Directed at Cursor
On Directed at Cursor trials, the task-irrelevant darts moved randomly, but always pointed toward the subject's cursor. Foraging performance was impaired in this condition, despite the fact that the darts were completely task-irrelevant!View an example display from this condition
Condition 2: Perpendicular to Cursor
On Perpendicular to Cursor trials, the task-irrelevant darts were instead always oriented orthogonally to the subject's cursor. This produced no impression of animacy, and correspondingly, no impairment of foraging performance. In other words, the impairment in Directed at Cursor trials is not simply due to the correlated rotary motion of the darts (which was perfectly equated here).View an example display from this condition
Condition 3: Directed at Computer
On Directed at Computer trials, the task-irrelevant darts pointed toward a separate (computer-controlled) disc. Foraging times were again unimpaired -- thus ensuring that the impairment in Directed at Cursor trials reflects a feeling of being personally menaced.View an example display from this condition