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Looming motion primes the visuomotor system

Skarratt, Paul A.; Gellatly, Angus R. H.; Cole, Geoff G.; Pilling, Michael; Hulleman, Johan


Angus R. H. Gellatly

Geoff G. Cole

Michael Pilling

Johan Hulleman


A wealth of evidence now shows that human and animal observers display greater sensitivity to objects that move toward them than to objects that remain static or move away. Increased sensitivity in humans is often evidenced by reaction times that increase in rank order from looming, to receding, to static targets. However, it is not clear whether the processing advantage enjoyed by looming motion is mediated by the attention system or the motor system. The present study investigated this by first examining whether sensitivity is to looming motion per se or to certain monocular or binocular cues that constitute stereoscopic motion in depth. None of the cues accounted for the looming advantage. A perceptual measure was then used to examine performance with minimal involvement of the motor system. Results showed that looming and receding motion were equivalent in attracting attention, suggesting that the looming advantage is indeed mediated by the motor system. These findings suggest that although motion itself is sufficient for attentional capture, motion direction can prime motor responses. © 2013 American Psychological Association.


Skarratt, P. A., Gellatly, A. R. H., Cole, G. G., Pilling, M., & Hulleman, J. (2014). Looming motion primes the visuomotor system. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 40(2), 566-579.

Publication Date 2014-03
Deposit Date Nov 13, 2014
Publicly Available Date Nov 23, 2017
Journal Journal of experimental psychology : human perception and performance
Print ISSN 0096-1523
Electronic ISSN 0096-1523
Publisher American Psychological Association
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 40
Issue 2
Pages 566-579
Keywords Attentional capture; Motor priming; Looming; Receding; Motion
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information Author's accepted manuscript of article published in: Journal of experimental psychology : human perception and performance, 2013, v.40, issue 2


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